Lekha Shankar | With more flights, fewer Covid rules, Thailand looks at India
Deccan Chronicle.| Lekha Shankar
The biggest boost for tourism between the two countries was, of course, the resumption of commercial flights, after two years
Ten million tourists are expected in the country which boasted of 40 million tourists the year before Covid. (Representational Image/ PTI)
All eyes are on the Indian market with Thailand removing many of its Covid-specific regulations in order to give a major boost to tourism in the country.
Ten million tourists are expected in the country which boasted of 40 million tourists the year before Covid.
From May 1, the mandatory RTPCR test, taken 72 hours before departure, will be stopped.
So also will be the "Test and Go" entry method, which entailed an RTPCR test on arrival, followed by a one-day quarantine in a hotel.
The health insurance requirement has been reduced from $20,000 to $10,000.
While the "Thailand Pass" (tp.consular.go.th) is still required to enter the country, its documents consist of only the passport, insurance proof and a double vaccination certificate.
"I’m glad many restrictions have been removed and I’ve been in many discussions with the Thai government about this. It will definitely give a boost to Indian tourists," said prominent Indo-Thai businessman Dato Satish Sehgal.
Also lobbying heavily for the Indian tourists was Somson Sachaphimukh, vice-president of the Thai Tourism Council, and of the Indo-Thai Chamber of Commerce (ITCC).
"The Indian groups are waiting to come to Thailand, and this will definitely help," she stated.
In fact, at a tourism panel discussion at the ITCC, Tanes Petsuwan, deputy governor, international marketing, of TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) stated that he expected at least 150,000 tourists from India this year.
"Not many markets are as reliable as the Indian tourist market," he said, adding that Indian tourists had risen by 27 per cent when the country boasted of 40 million tourists just before Covid struck in 2019.
As many as 1.9 million travellers from India had generated more than 8.5 billion baht that year.
Petsuwan said he was planning to attend SATTE, the major trade show in India in May, with 25 Thai "sellers".
The biggest boost for tourism between the two countries was, of course, the resumption of commercial flights, after two years.
In fact, Thai Airways held a major press conference in Bangkok to announce daily flights to Delhi and Mumbai, as also flights to Chennai, Bengaluru and Kolkata, as well as to Phuket from Mumbai, by its sister airline, Thai Smile.
Suvadhana Sibunruang, acting CEO, said they were targeting various segments of Indian travellers, from FIT (foreign independent traveller) and VFR (visiting friends and relatives), to luxury segments like golfers, celebrities, wedding groups and film units. A new category would be "Digital Nomads", encouraging Indian personnel to work and holiday in Thailand, at beaches, mountains and resorts.
"Everyone’s banking on the Indian market and we’ve had many meetings with hoteliers and travel agents to prepare for their arrival," said Marisa Sukosol, president of the Thai Hoteliers Association.
Agreeing with her,was Jackson Ferguson, vice-president of the exclusive S. Hotels and Resorts in Samui, who said that they had receive many enquiries from India, and recently hosted a group of wedding planners from India.
Meanwhile, Dr Vorrakorn Chamnanpaisarn, president of TCEB (Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau), informed that India was their most important market.
"Before Covid, India was the second biggest market, with 200,000 visitors," he stated. These included groups from banks, pharmaceuticals and insurance companies. There was also a mega wedding market, which boasted of as many as 330 weddings, of three-six nights each, the year before Covid.
According to him, India was one of the "fastest" markets to bounce back from a crisis, as happened after 9-11, SARS, etc.
Max Boontawee Jantasuwan, vice-president of TICA (Thailand Incentive and Convention Association), said that the "incentive" market from India was sizeable, and they had as many as 30 Mice agencies from India, on a fam trip, last month.
"India is a key market,and all visa restrictions should be removed for them," he declared. He informed that they were planning new tourism programmes for the Indian incentive groups "as the Indians love unique, new experiences".
With the Ukraine war having vastly reduced visitors from Europe, Asia was centrestage, now.
And with Chinese tourists not allowed to travel outside their country, India was the Asian country in focus.
The day after the removal of the mandatory five-day hotel quarantine on April 1, a mega Indian wedding was held on the beach island of Phuket, in which as much as 15 million baht was spent on decorations alone.
One also heard that Bollywood actor Tiger Shroff came on a long shoot to the country, as soon as the five-day hotel quarantine rule was removed.
It looks like the floodgates will open for the Indian tourists to Thailand, after May 1.
The numbers should shoot further, after July 1, when Thailand plans to term Covid as "endemic", rather than a pandemic.