TAT working on strategies to increase number of Japanese tourists


The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) disclosed active strategies for next year, aimed at attracting Japanese tourists to Thailand after the group showed signs of recovery despite the yen's depreciation, TAT Tokyo office director Kajorndet Apichartrakul said on Wednesday.

His comments came after the country's tourism sector reported its first-ever deficit in tourist numbers with Japan in 2023. 

Last year, 995,000 Thai tourists visited Japan, but only 804,000 Japanese tourists came to Thailand, resulting in a nearly 200,000-person deficit.

Citing the record yen depreciation as an unintentional factor in the country's appeal to Thai tourists, Kajorndet said that TAT was outlining active strategies to entice more Japanese tourists to visit Thailand. 

One of the strategies, he said, is to ensure that travel to the Land of Smile is worthwhile and affordable, addressing their cost concerns as the yen’s depreciation has raised their cost of living, including international travel.

He explained that travel to Thailand this year did not result in a full return to normalcy due to the economic slowdown in Japan. Despite the yen's value plunging, making them hesitant to travel due to the high cost of air tickets and hotel accommodation, Japanese people still desire to travel.

Kajorndet Apichartrakul  

"Despite the higher cost, which makes Japanese tourists hesitant to travel, I believe Thailand still provides value for money when compared to other destinations. We [TAT] anticipate arrivals of Japanese tourists to Thailand to return to normal in early 2025. Furthermore, it will most likely take another two years for Japanese tourists to return to their 2019 level of 1.8 million. We still need to monitor other factors to see how much they are affected," he said. 

To ensure the Japanese market's steady recovery, Kajorndet stated that the TAT 2025 marketing plan will target two major groups: young generation (Gen Z and Gen Y) who admire Thailand's soft power, such as the Boylove series and TPop music, and niche lifestyle groups who have a specific reason to travel, such as young entrepreneurs, close companions, or mother-and-child couples.

Regarding the younger generations, he emphasised that TAT must show the new generation of tourists that Thailand is no longer a tourist destination for senior citizens who travel solely to play golf.

The country is friendly to them and caters to their preference for short-haul destinations such as South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong due to the convenience of flights and low ticket prices.

TAT working on strategies to increase number of Japanese tourists

In terms of niche lifestyle, he emphasised that the group was regarded as a premium group that was willing to spend. As a result, Thailand must assure the group that the country is a safe and secure place for them to relax and enjoy their once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

"The Japanese tourist market has a distinct character. It is not as massive as the Chinese tourist market. This causes marketing time to be spent on sub-segments, delving deeper into lifestyles, such as using influencers to market and promote tourism. Just one can't handle it," he explained. 

Furthermore, the positive signal of recovery is bolstered by increased flights between the two countries.

Kajorndet revealed that several airlines, including Thai Airways and Thai AirAsia X, are likely to open new routes and add more flights in the remaining six months of the year. The airlines are preparing to launch a direct flight to Nagoya. 

"TAT is currently negotiating with the airline to reopen a direct flight to Sendai; the service was suspended during the pandemic. Our goal is to quickly restore passenger seat volume on this route to normal," he said, adding that accelerating tourism promotion in both directions is one of the most important ways to assist.

"Because if there are no Thai people going to Japan, the airlines aren't happy about opening routes either," he pointed out. 

TAT working on strategies to increase number of Japanese tourists

According to TAT, the number of aeroplane seats available on the Thailand-Japan route has recovered 70% since the pandemic. The majority of passengers were Thai – approximately 60% – and 40% Japanese. 

Fortunately, the Japanese still regard Thailand as a "friendly destination”, so Thailand has the opportunity to fully recover next year, with at least 1.1 million people, or a 10% increase from this year, he said. The influx could restore Thailand’s surplus with Japan in terms of arrival numbers.

In 2024, the overall tourism outlook for Thailand and Japan should be more balanced. Although statistics from the first five months show that over 560,000 Thais travelled to Japan, they are expected to decline during the low season in the third quarter. TAT expects 1 million Japanese tourists to visit Thailand this year, exceeding the target of 870,000 people.

The figure represents a more than 50% increase from 2019 before Covid, when there were nearly 1.8 million people, placing Thailand as the sixth most popular market for foreign tourists behind China, Malaysia, India, South Korea, and Lao PDR.

Meanwhile, during the first six months of this year, Japanese were the 10th highest group among foreign tourists visiting Thailand, with a total of 470,000 people, a 10% increase year on year. The average amount spent per person per trip exceeds 60,000 baht. Furthermore, Japanese visitors spend an average of 11 days with a daily expenditure of 5,500 baht per person.