BANGKOK — Two weeks after the reopening, business operators in major tourist destinations outside Bangkok say they still have to rely more on domestic travelers than foreign tourists.
In cities traditionally renowned as world-famous destinations for foreign visitors like Chiang Mai, Pattaya and Phuket, domestic tourism remains the dominant trend so far, according to trade representatives.
Although Chiang Mai is touted by the government in its tourism campaign “Charming Chiang Mai,” most of the arrivals in the past several weeks were Thai travelers, president of the Chiang Mai Tourism Council told reporters.
Domestic flights had been seeing passenger arrivals to Chiang Mai in the area of 1,000 to 2,000 passengers per day, but in October that figure rose to as many as 5,000 people per day on average, he said.
Hotel bookings have increased as well, but that’s because of domestic tourists who traveled to natural landmarks where hotel bookings managed to hit 50 to 60 percent occupancy at times.
Down south on Phuket island, the president of the Phuket Tourism Council said the number of travelers arriving on its airport have doubled since the reopening two weeks ago, bringing in tourists from Germany, the UK, and Scandinavia as well as Thai people returning home.
But domestic travelers continue to outnumber foreign tourists, with over 30 domestic flights landing on the island each day. Officials place domestic arrivals at an average of about 4,000 to 5,000 people per day, plus an estimated 10,000 more people coming in overland daily.
Thai holidaymakers to Phuket have been making use of the government tourism stimulus plans, like “Travel Around Thailand” subsidy for tour packages and “We Travel Together” playing the same role for hotels.
It is expected that domestic tourists will continue to play an important part in the January to April season next year.
And while Pattaya has been seeing a trickle of visitors recently, the Chairman of the Pattaya Business and Tourism Association said the crowds are not coming from outside the border.
Up to 80 percent of the holiday business is from Thai domestic travellers and most of the foreigners that are coming in with the new Test & Go entry program launched November 1 are expats that already have a Thai family, and not foreign tourists that used to be a familiar sight in Pattaya.
The Test & Go program allows visitors from an approved list of 63 countries to enter Thailand “without quarantine,” but they are still required to take an RT-PCR test upon their arrival and be sequestered while they wait at least 6 to 8 hours in an approved hotel for the test results. If they are negative, the visitors can then travel freely throughout Thailand.
But the Tourism Association Chairman says this is still too much of an inconvenience for many travellers that aren’t interested in jumping through hoops to get into Thailand.