Thailand: Chiang Mai’s economy recovers thanks to tourism, Phuket puts hopes in Indian tourists

From July 1, Thailand has completely lifted entry restrictions, in particular, special requirements for passports (Thailand Pass) were also further eased. The Southeast Asian country is slowly and steadily working towards economic recovery.

Businesses in the tourism sector have welcomed this move and expressed hope that the surge in foreign visitors will help steady the tourism industry again after being severely affected by the pandemic.

South Korean couple read temple instructions and etiquette at Wat Pho  Buddhist temple complex.
A South Korean couple read temple instructions and etiquette at Wat Pho Buddhist temple complex. (Photo: Bangkok Post)

According to Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, Minister of Tourism and Sports of Thailand, over 400,000 foreign tourists visited the country in May when the Test & Go scheme was lifted. Starting from June, Thailand expects about 900,000 foreign tourists monthly.

The number is expected to reach up to 1.5 million during the high season, he added.

Phuket: High hopes for Indian tourists

Thanet Tantipiriyakit, Chairman of the Phuket Tourism Council, said lifting Thailand Pass will ensure easier entry into the country.

"The entry requirements will become more convenient for tourists. Easy entry requirements is a convincing reason for visitors to travel to Thailand. Easing passport requirements will not only benefit Phuket, but also the whole tourism industry,” he said.

Tourism activities in Phuket are starting to improve, with many airlines looking to launch direct flights from countries (such as India) to the provinces. Airlines from South Korea will also soon resume direct flights to Phuket.

“The lifting of Thailand Pass will encourage airlines to make quick decisions. The current number of tourists to Phuket has not decreased despite the low season, with the number of Asian tourists ranging from 3,000-4,000 per day, particularly from India. During the past two months, Phuket has welcomed almost 50,000 Indian tourists,” said chairman Thanet Tantipiriyakit.

The Phuket Tourist Association will work with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and local authorities to organize a program in 3 cities in India to promote tourism and attract more visitors.

The Chairman of the Phuket Tourism Council hopes at least 200,000 Indian tourists will arrive in Phuket this year.

However, although the number of foreign tourists is increasing, it will take some time before tourism there returns to pre-pandemic levels. If the number of foreign tourists this year reaches 30% of pre-pandemic levels, it will generate more than 100 billion Baht in revenue.

Chiang Mai: Economic revival

According to Prachon Pratsakul, the Governor of Chiang Mai, the Covid-19 situation in northern provinces has improved considerably, with case numbers falling to single digits. Resuming businesses, including seminars, meetings and exhibitions has helped revitalize the local economy.

Completely lifting entry restrictions will boost the tourism industry in Chiang Mai as the province is a favorite destination for many tourists.

Currently, Chiang Mai is hosting FTI Expo 2022, organized by the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), as well as Lanna Expo 2022. The two events will end on July 10.

"The Government and the private sector are working together to restore consumer confidence,” said Governor Pratsakul.

Tourists at Suvarnabhumi airport. (Photo: Bangkok Post)
Tourists at Suvarnabhumi airport. (Photo: Bangkok Post)

However, he admits the economic situation, rising fuel prices, and high cost of living remain challenges for the province.

Watcharayu Kuawong, Director of the TAT's Chiang Mai office, said local tourism continues to recover at a strong pace after some entry restrictions were eased.

Between January and April, around 2.8 million tourists visited Chiang Mai, generating about 20 billion Baht in revenue. The majority of the tourists were from Thailand, the rest from the US, Europe, and other Asian countries.

Director Kuawong added that tourism-related businesses are fully prepared to welcome tourists back.

The Department of International Economic Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand will also host the 3rd Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum and related meetings in Chiang Mai from August 16-31.

Thana Laopanich, President of the Thai Hotels Association's northern chapter, said 30% of hotels in the North are fully booked.

He hopes the country’s full reopening to tourists will further increase hotel booking rates to 50-60%, particularly during the high season.

Positive trends for Pattaya

Pattaya Mayor Poramet Ngampichet said the Government’s decision to allow nightspots to open until 2 am will revive the tourism industry in Pattaya.

He stresses: "Tourists will have more time to enjoy themselves. Most importantly, ending Thailand Pass will help tourists travel more conveniently.

Pattaya expects about 3-4 million Indian tourists. Visitors from India are applying for visas and will be big spenders in Pattaya.”

According to Mayor Ngampichet, in 2019, Pattaya attracted about 5 million domestic visitors and about 2 million tourists from China, Russia, India, and South Korea, generating around 300 billion Baht in income.

Between January and April, the popular beach town welcomed 3.8 million tourists, mostly Thais, partly due to the Government's "We Travel Together" hotel subsidy scheme, with an income of about 22 billion Baht.

During this period, there were only 65,000 foreign tourists, but that number increased to 40,000 in May when the Test & Go scheme was lifted.

The Mayor also revealed that from July, a series of activities will be organized to welcome tourists, such as the Pattaya Marathon on July 16-17, the Pattaya Music Festival which will be held in August or September, and the Pattaya Fireworks Festival in November.

"This positive trend shows that Pattaya is on the road to recovery. However, we do not expect the tourism industry to return to pre-pandemic levels this year.

Another problem is that although Thailand has reopened, the number of international flights to the country is still limited. The purchasing power of domestic tourists is decreasing so we expect to receive a boost from foreign spenders,” he said.

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