Unlocking travel trends to boost Thailand’s economic recovery with tourism


With Thailand’s economy in a state of transition, understanding changing traveller demands will help the industry unlock valuable tourist opportunities and dollars, the Land of Smiles has been a tourism hub for many years, and while it welcomed over 28 million visitors last year, it is experiencing a slower post-pandemic recovery compared to its regional peers.

The National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC) recently adjusted its forecasts for 2024, predicting economic growth of 2.2% to 3.2%, lower than the previous projection of 2.7% to 3.7%.

The good news is that according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), foreign tourism into the country at the start of 2024 has set a promising precedent for the tourism industry this year, writes Vinay Surana, Regional Managing Director for Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, of  Allianz Partners.

“As the world’s largest travel insurer, we are seeing this demand too. Our global experience of partnering with some of the largest airlines, travel agents, banks and assisting millions of travellers across multiple countries has given us unique insights into their needs and expectations. To maintain growth and boost the Thai economy, travel providers will need to familiarise themselves with the key emerging travel trends that will help attract tourists, drive destination loyalty & advocacy and stand out from other destinations in the region,” he writes.

Seven travel trends on which to capitalise 

“The first trend is a growing demand for authentic and non-traditional travel experiences. This is driven by post-pandemic attitudes, where travellers are moving away from conventional tourism in favour of more personally meaningful destinations and offbeat experiences – opting for immersive trips focused on local culture. 49% of travellers globally seek to be immersed in local cultures and products, while 50% want personalised experiences and activities[1].

“Secondly, wealthy travellers are also increasingly prioritising experiences, with more than half (52%) now preferring to spend their money on luxury experiences rather than luxury goods.

“To meet this demand, travel providers can look to collaborate to curate more local experiences that cater to travellers seeking authentic experiences. For example, hotels can partner with tour operators and the likes of national parks to design exclusive packages.

“The third trend is that after long periods of isolation and self-reflection, there’s a demand for wellness and self-care, with more travellers looking to reconnect with themselves and their well-being. The Global Wellness Institute forecasts a 21% annual growth rate in wellness tourism between 2020 – 2025[2], and with its wide range of offerings, Thailand is well-placed to cater to this market.

“Another key trend is that travellers aren’t just travelling for self-reflection though, as reconnection travel is still ranked as a top motivation for travel to reunite with loved ones after long periods of separation during lockdowns.

“At the same time, digital nomads also continue to make any possible location their office, making this the fifth trend to watch. These individuals travel freely and work remotely from across the world, seeing themselves more as temporary residents than tourists. Despite Thailand not having a dedicated digital nomad visa programme, they have a range of options available for long-term residents and for remote workers to bring along their spouse and children. Hospitality players would be wise to look at digital nomad packages, which can be coupled with luxury or wellness experiences.

“The sixth trend is the rise of the more conscientious traveller. These individuals have a greater focus on sustainability, with many seeking ways to have more meaningful and environmentally friendly travel experiences – from searching for and booking more sustainable options, to looking for ways to improve their impact on the destinations and communities they visit. According to Booking.com, while sustainability is high on the travellers’ mind, there’s room for the industry in APAC to accelerate its growth and offerings[3], making it a key area for players in Thailand to look into to stand out amongst regional competition. Airlines for example can give tourists alternative options to purchase carbon offsets, while hotels can focus on local produce to support surrounding communities and to lessen their carbon footprint.

“Lastly, travellers today are becoming more demanding, expecting efficient and intuitive experiences that deliver instant gratification. This immediacy has led to greater competition among travel suppliers for loyalty, prompting companies to focus on eliminating friction while maintaining a human touch in travel services. Since the pandemic, people have become warier before travelling, with concerns such as getting sick or stuck in a country due to sudden lockdowns. More than ever, they need their concerns and anxieties addressed from the start, even prior to the trip, before they can have a smooth experience.

“Travel providers should look at ways to partner with ecosystem partners such as travel insurers, as the right policies can help to address some of these concerns and provide peace of mind from the start. For example, insurance plays a crucial role in eliminating travel-related concerns including disruptions and unforeseen circumstances, such as flight delays, personal emergencies, or baggage issues.

“Similarly, travel providers should also have conversations with their guests on the types of insurance they should be purchasing before a trip. For example, thrill seekers engaging in adventure or visiting remote locations should consider specialised coverage for potential accidents or injuries. These personalised experiences, powered by human touch, will keep travellers coming back again, and our customers have told us that coupling travel insurance with their core products or offerings resulted in better conversions of their core product.

“Whether its short-term tourists or long-term visitors, Asia Pacific continues to be a tourism hotspot globally, with visitors expected to increase from 619 million in 2024 to 762 million in 2026[4]. With its vast range of offerings and airport connectivity, Thailand is well-placed to target this market to help boost its economic recovery. This isn’t without its challenges though as tourism continues to be competitive, especially amongst its Southeast Asian neighbours. Key will be reducing travel tension to improve experiences and to turn travellers into returning guests. Partnerships will be key to ensuring seamlessness, and companies that partner with travel insurance providers to enhance customer care can differentiate themselves by offering peace of mind throughout the entire travel experience.”

[1] 2023 Hilton Trends Report
[2] The Global Wellness Economy: Looking Beyond COVID
[3] Unpacking travellers’ views on sustainability in Asia-Pacific
[4] Asia Pacific Visitor Forecasts 2024-2026

Vinay Surana is the Regional Managing Director – Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa of Allianz Partners.