Thai tourism targets high-spending travellers from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan
Thai tourism is targeting emerging markets in central Asia as a growing source of much-needed tourist dollars.
Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said on Monday that travellers from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have shown increasing interest in visiting Thailand since the Visa on Arrival was extended from 15 to 30 days on October 1.
On October 30, Air Astana will launch direct daily flights from Almaty, Kazakhstan to Bangkok and Phuket, expanding from the current three flights per week. Meanwhile, Sunday Airlines will also add new flights this winter from major Kazakh cities such as Almaty, Astana, Kostanay, Shymkent and Uralsk to Phuket and U-Tapao.
“Kazakh airlines and tour companies said last month they would like to see Thailand scrap all visa requirements and fees for Kazakhstan tourists this year so they can promote Thailand during the high season,” Phiphat said.
In 2019, before the pandemic, Thailand received about 56,000 tourists from Kazakhstan, generating about 3.46 billion baht in tourism revenue.
The first nine months of 2022 saw around 22,000 arrivals from Kazakhstan. The ministry estimates that figure will reach 55,000 by year-end, almost returning to pre-Covid levels.
Phiphat said Uzbekistan tourists also have high spending power and qualify for the Visa on Arrival, but there are currently no direct flights from the country to Thailand. National carrier Uzbekistan Airways is preparing to resume international flights after being grounded during the pandemic, he added.
Currently, Uzbekistan tourists wishing to visit Thailand have to catch a flight from Tashkent or Samarkand to Almaty, Istanbul, Dubai, or the UAE and grab a connecting flight to Thailand.
Over 19,000 Uzbekistan tourists visited Thailand in 2019. The first eight months of 2022 saw 2,496 arrivals from Uzbekistan, with a total of 8,500 expected this year.
The ministry has reduced its tourism revenue target for this year from 1.5 trillion baht to 1.28 trillion baht after lower-than-expected bookings. Next year, it expects revenue of 2.4 trillion baht from an estimated 20 million foreign visitors and 160 million trips made by Thais.