By Nayara Batschke
Bangkok, Oct 17 (EFE).- Thailand, whose number of foreign travelers plummeted from almost 40 million in 2019 to about 420,000 in 2021, is struggling to revive its tourism with the search for new markets, such as India and domestic travel, although authorities said “it will take time.”
Bangkok and other popular destinations in one of the world’s leading tourism powers are coming back to life after nearly two years of “complete darkness and emptiness.”
In recent months, tourists have once again filled the dozens of shops, bars and nightclubs in the crowded Nana neighborhood in the Thai capital, where movement almost doubled after the gradual relaxation of entry restrictions over the last year. to the country.
“We struggled to survive those last two years, they were two years without customers. But the situation began to improve a few months ago and we are very excited with the arrival of the high season,” Ae, manager of a bar in the popular neighborhood, told EFE.
Thailand, which remained closed until the middle of this year, is rushing to boost one of the engines of its economy – which accounted for almost 20 percent of GDP in 2019 – at a time when virtually all of Asia is returning to normal after the Covid-19 pandemic. This follows the opening last week of Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan but with the still felt absence of China.
With the aim of recovering pre-pandemic levels, Thailand has outlined an ambitious roadmap that consists above all of reducing dependence on international tourism, promoting domestic tourism and expanding the range of markets, until then highly concentrated in China.
This is because in 2019, before the health emergency, the almost 40 million international tourists accounted for about 70 percent of the industry and generated some THB 2 trillion (about $ 52.5 billion) to the country’s economy, while domestic tourism contributed another TBH 1 trillion.
The arrival of the coronavirus caused foreign visitors to plummet to 6.7 million in 2020 and only 428,000 the following year, leading to a collapse of the sector.
With the end of the emergency situation decree and the relaxation of anticovid restrictions, Thai tourism is beginning to show some signs of recovery, although figures remain well below pre-pandemic levels.
For 2022, the government expects to receive some 10 million tourists, who should generate an income of THB 1.5 billion baht – 50 percent of the total collected in 2019. By 2023, it hopes to recover 80 percent of profits.
One of the main strategies is to reduce dependence on China, responsible in 2019 for almost a third of all international visitors and about 20 percent of money left by tourists, for which Thailand was affected by the zero-Covid-19 policy adopted by Beijing.
For this reason, looking at “new potential markets,” such as neighboring nations, Saudi Arabia and especially India, became essential for a more robust resumption of the sector, Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, the Thai tourism authority’s Marketing Communications deputy director, told EFE.
“India has a good variety of segments, like family tourism, weddings, honeymoons, wellness quests. And we have the ability to offer them all those services,” he said.
Likewise, the country is now focusing on “quality” tourism and not quantity and has developed some initiatives to encourage greater stays in Thailand, such as visa free extensions.
“We have to focus more on quality. That means focusing on those who can come to Thailand frequently and those who come and stay longer,” Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Yuthasak Supasorn told a news conference Thursday. EFE