Security and tourism infrastructure upgrades essential, ATTA says


Improving country security and standardising tourism infrastructure will help Thailand meet its target of 36.7 foreign visitors this year, Sittiwat Chiwarattanaporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA), said on Monday.

His remarks came after the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) released a report showing that over 14.7 million international tourists visited the Land of Smiles in the first five months of 2024.

The president of ATTA said that Thailand will be able to maintain its position as the world’s most popular tourist destination this year, even with Japan experiencing an increase in tourist numbers. Statistics show that between January and May, more than 14.6 million foreign tourists visited Japan, just 120,000 fewer than Thailand.

He explained that Japan has become popular among tourists as a result of the highest-ever yen depreciation, making the country more appealing to tourists. High levels of security, cleanliness, and a robust infrastructure that allows tourists to travel comfortably have made Japan one of the most desirable places to visit.

Thailand, he noted, may be more diverse in terms of destination, activities, and cuisine. However, the country must acknowledge that it lags behind Japan in terms of security, social order, and facilities.

“The main challenge for the Thai tourism industry is to improve the safety of the industry as well as the services and facilities available to tourists. I’ve always said that if Thailand can achieve the same level of safety as Japan, everyone will want to visit. At the same time, Japan’s cleanliness standards and excellent infrastructure development assure tourists that they can easily travel from public transport to tourist attractions,” he said.

Sittiwat Chiwarattanaporn

As Thailand’s tourism sector enters its low season, which runs from this month through September, experts have urged the public and private sectors to consider short-term measures to boost the industry.

To meet the tourist target for this year, it is estimated that the country will need to attract at least 3 million visitors per month over the next three months, before ramping up in the peak season of the last quarter with 3.5-4 million people per month.

“If we set a monthly goal, we can get into the specifics of how we intend to attract tourists from the short-term market while remaining remote. What budget and tools would TAT require to increase the number from organic growth? What can be done quickly must be done to ensure that our 3.5 million foreign tourists arrive in Thailand after September. There is no need to wait for the increasing number of flights during the 2024/2025 winter schedule to be announced because we would waste time waiting until the end of October when we can start some campaigns or promotions in the middle of the year,” he explained.

Citing Chinese tourists, Thailand’s biggest market, an as example, the ATTA president pointed out that more needs to be done to attract 8 million Chinese to visit the country as targeted.

Currently, the association estimates that the number of Chinese tourists to Thailand will be fewer than 7 million.

“We have to have clear and precise direction to serve the demand of this market,” he said.

In response to concerns that Thailand will lose its top tourist destination standing to Japan, Sittiwat emphasised that the most important issue is not losing the top place, but rather meeting the country’s 36.7 million target.

Security and tourism infrastructure upgrades essential, ATTA says

He then urged the TAT to review all travel-related facilities and accommodations, including charter flights from China and Russia, in order to reduce or eliminate any potential obstacles.

He emphasised that while the Thai tourism sector is recovering this year, the country still faces numerous challenges and risks that must be addressed with caution.

Given the global economy’s uncertainties and vulnerabilities, it is impossible to do nothing and hope for the best during the final three months of the high season.

“Unpredictable circumstances may occur, causing Thailand to miss its target,” he pointed out.

He added that the country should be prepared to accept the possibility that its tourism industry will miss its revenue target of 3.5 trillion baht, noting that the most recent tourism spending figure is lower than the pre-Covid period, with an average of 46,000 baht per person per trip, down from 49,000 baht in 2019.

This shift demonstrates that the majority of tourists worldwide are still affected by decreasing purchasing power and the global economic slowdown. Another factor is the influx of tourists from short-term markets like Malaysia, who prefer to cross the border and stay for only 2-3 days.

Security and tourism infrastructure upgrades essential, ATTA says

Thapanee Kiatphaibool, governor of Thailand’s Tourism Authority, pledged to keep Thailand as a top tourist destination despite the fact that Japan benefits from yen depreciation, and Thais continue to travel and spend their money there. 

“TAT will focus on attracting foreign tourists to Thailand in the most effective way possible to meet the government’s target of 36.7 million visitors this year. Meanwhile, revenue must surge ahead to meet the total revenue target of 3.5 trillion baht. If we can keep the tourism shopping drive at 50,000 baht per person per trip, that will be considered satisfactory. TAT expects at least 40 million foreign tourists to visit Thailand by 2025,” she said.

Her remarks came ahead of the TAT’s key conference on its marketing direction and action plan, which will take place at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre from July 8 to 12. Following that, TAT will hold a press conference to unveil the country’s marketing roadmap for promoting the tourism industry and redefining the concept of “quality tourist”.

Previously, TAT defined the group as those who earned more than US$60,000 per year.

However, the updated study discovered that based on an analysis of this group’s current shopping behaviour, they would have 10% of their income left to spend on tourism, which is equivalent to $6,000 per year.

This prompted the TAT to reconsider its definition of a quality tourist as a “two-sided rich person.” The first side loves luxuries and eating well, whereas the second side is rich in conscience and pays more attention to environmental protection.

To support the growth of the country’s tourism industry, Chamnan Srisawat, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, recommended that the government promote the issue to a national agenda item and declare next year as the “Year of Thai Tourism” in order to attract 40-45 million tourists to the kingdom.