Thailand: Tourism making gradual recovery
The recovery rate of Thai tourism was slower than in neighbouring countries because of a shortage of flights and the absence of key markets such as China, according to leading regional travel tech companies.
Wilfred Fan, chief commercial officer at Klook, a travel and experiences platform, said there was a strong recovery for cross-border travel in Asia-Pacific, but the overall pace for the region still lagged behind the recovery rate in the US and Europe by 12 months.
He said the number of tourism arrivals in October in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan — key markets for Klook — recorded the lowest rate of recovery, at just 10% of the corresponding period in 2019. Arrivals to South Korea and Southeast Asia recorded a stronger rate of recovery, reaching 40% of the level in 2019, but still remained a far cry from some Western nations that fully recovered.
However, there was a dramatic surge in domestic tourism activities in some countries, such as Taiwan, where the number of bookings via its platform rose by 397% in the third quarter this year.
Mr Fan said Thailand’s tourism recovery is expected to quicken greatly after Christmas, after recording only tepid growth because of the lack of key markets such as China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
He said the recovery rate in Singapore has been among the most outstanding, reaching 85% in October as the country reopened earlier than Thailand, while the recovery rate in Malaysia reached 90%.
Key to Singapore’s rebound is the country has a larger number of flight connections to cater to tourism demand, whereas Thailand still doesn’t have enough long-haul flights serving the country, said Mr Fan.
According to Klook’s business outlook, the number of visitors booking experiences in Thailand during the third quarter this year was still 61% lower than the corresponding period prior to the pandemic, as most bookings prior to Covid-19 came from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. These countries have been severely affected by border restrictions since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Speaking at the first edition of “Thailand Travelution 2022”, a travel tech trade event, Mr Fan said travellers must pay attention to travel restrictions, practices and rules of the countries they visit while Covid variants continue to spread.
He said clear communication should be targeted towards travellers, including information about the country’s public health system or medical services, as well as guidance on how to receive treatment for Covid infections during their travel.
Michelle Gao, regional manager for partner services at Booking.com, said its survey of 24,000 respondents in 32 countries found that travel trends in 2023 would shift towards group travel, including family members and friends, with 70% saying they would prefer to share their trips with loved ones.
Moreover, 75% of respondents, who were mostly younger people, plan to seek authentic local experiences. Spending on this kind of trip this year was 34% higher than during the corresponding period in 2019.
Ms Gao said 60% of respondents already use a mobile app to book travel services and this trend would continue next year. Respondents prefer to have more time to prepare for each trip because of concerns about travel restrictions.
Meanwhile, budget remains a vital component in terms of decision-making as people see value as the key factor for their upcoming trips.