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Thailand Prepares for 20 Million Foreign Visitors in 2023



Thailand Continues to be Unprepared for Life Without Tourists

Thailand’s tourism revenue is expected to reach 80% of pre-Covid-19 levels this year, with foreign visitor numbers returning to half of previous levels. On Monday Thailand set a target of raising tourism revenue to 2.38 trillion baht by 2023, with at least 20 million foreign visitors expected.

This represented approximately 80% of pre-Covid tourism-related revenue, with visitor numbers expected to return to approximately 50% of previous levels.

Hopper, a popular online travel agency, has predicted an increase in international travel to Asia, with Bangkok ranked among the top three trending destinations, alongside Tokyo and Ho Chi Minh City.

The report was based on searches for flight information by Americans in 2023 during the first week of December.

Hopper predicted that more Americans would travel abroad in 2023, particularly to Asian cities. American searches for international flights to Asian cities accounted for 27% of the total, up from 19% the previous year. Bangkok was the third most popular destination after Tokyo and Ho Chi Minh City.

Thailand’s tourism agencies have since increased their cooperation with other countries in order to encourage tourist exchanges. Thailand’s Tourism Authority and the Korea Tourism Organization declared 2023-2024 as years of tourism between the two countries.

The collaboration is expected to result in at least 3 million tourist exchanges. The two-year collaboration is also hoped strengthen ties between Thailand and South Korea.

Thailand Prepares for 20 Million Foreign Visitors in 2023

Tourism Rebounding in Southern Thailand

On the southern resort island of Phuket tourism is rebounding, with over 2.3 million visitors and at least 127 billion baht in tourism revenue in the first ten months of 2022.

Business owners are optimistic that international tourist arrivals will continue to rise this year, but they recognize that it may take more than a year for the industry to fully recover.

Despite its devastation, the Covid-19 pandemic sparked the so-called “Phuket Sandbox,” a reopening model for international travelers, and forced large and small business operators to weather the crisis, learn about what it takes to adapt, and rebuild their confidence.

“We’re back, though we’re not sure how things will turn out. Some believe Covid-19 will return. You don’t get anxious after surviving the pandemic.

“We went through a very hard time, so I think we can endure a little more and follow the sufficiency economy philosophy of King Rama IX. “We intend to boost tourism even more, making it shine and sparkle,” said Panin Kitiparaporn, CEO of Siam Niramit Phuket.

While natural beauty draws visitors to Phuket, tourism in the island is more than just beaches. Visitors also spend a lot of money on cultural and entertainment shows.

The cast and crew of stage performances did not set foot on stage for about two years due to virus restrictions. Siam Niramit Phuket remained closed until late October, more than a year after its sister theater, Siam Niramit Bangkok, closed.

Thailand Prepares for 20 Million Foreign Visitors in 2023

Theater in Phuket Thailand

After 16 years of operation, one of the most difficult decisions was to permanently close Siam Niramit Bangkok in September 2021. It was founded in October 2005 and quickly gained a reputation for showcasing traditional Thai performances before opening a sister theater in Phuket a few years later.

To build the 1.5 billion baht theater, the company leased a 24-rai land plot opposite the Thailand Cultural Centre. With seven years left on the lease and numerous uncertainties, it decided to close the Bangkok theater completely.

“When the pandemic first struck and forced the suspension, we kept our staff. However, when the situation did not improve, we had to let most of them go, though we kept the building and equipment-maintenance staff. “We expected to return one day,” Ms. Panin told the Bangkok Post.

Siam Niramit Phuket is built on a 57-rai land plot that the company purchased as part of the two-billion-baht investment. It was a local hotspot that drew crowds until the pandemic hit. Attendance at the theater has been around 30%-40% since reopening on October 20, but the company has not set any targets and will take things as they come, she said.

According to Ms. Panin, Siam Niramit Phuket has been renovated and new shows have been added to ensure visitors have an enjoyable experience of Thai culture and history.

“It took us three years to develop the theater, and it has become our pride. “We spent a lot of money on maintenance and reworking our shows,” she explained.

Thailand Prepares for 20 Million Foreign Visitors in 2023

Thailand’s Tourist Attractions reopening

Ms. Panin also owns Dream World, an amusement park in Pathum Thani’s Rangsit area, as well as small theme parks in shopping malls, all of which were affected by the lockdown. “After my doctor friend said Covid-19 wouldn’t end quickly, I called a meeting.

It was difficult to keep the businesses afloat with 2,000 employees, so I told each operation to try to manage. “We strictly followed labor laws,” she explained.

Several privately run zoos found themselves in financial trouble due to a sharp drop in visitors during the Covid-19 restrictions. A tiger zoo in Patong, Phuket, was no exception.

Tiger Kingdom Phuket executive Kotchakorn Chaiyabut said the tiger park was temporarily closed during the pandemic, and the company spent a fortune, including taking out loans to cover the costs of animal care and welfare while the gates were closed.

She also expressed gratitude to the public for making donations and providing the tiger park with a much-needed lifeline. Their generosity and support demonstrated that the park is a part of the community, she said.

According to Kotchakorn, the park has recovered some ground more than six months after reopening, and with attendance at around 70%, it can be said Tiger Kingdom Phuket is getting back on its feet.

“We’re looking forward to the return of the European, American and Indian markets. “When Chinese tourists return and international airlines resume full service, the entire province will become as vibrant as ever,” she predicted.

Thailand Prepares for 20 Million Foreign Visitors in 2023

Phuket has made a strong recovery

Kotchakorn attributed the tourism market’s revival to all stakeholders and the staging of major events such as the Laguna Phuket Triathlon, which drew tourists from all over the world. According to Nanthasiri Ronnasiri, director of the Phuket Tourism Authority, the TAT has been working with the local community to stimulate economic activity in the province, and Phuket has made a strong recovery.

She predicted that the revival of tourism in Phuket, the southern region’s top destination, would boost tourism in secondary provinces.

A 6.6-billion-baht nighttime theme park recently burst onto the local scene, with the goal of becoming a tourist must-see and revitalizing the sector.

Carnival Magic, which provides Thai-style carnivals, parades, and temple fairs, first opened its doors on September 20 of last year, just in time to welcome tourists during the peak season. Its concept is based on the success of Phuket FantaSea, which has been operating for 22 years and spans 100 rai.

Kittikorn Kewkacha, president and CEO of Carnival Magic Co, stated that Phuket FantaSea was closed for nearly two years during Covid-19 due to border closures that kept visitors from major markets away.

Thailand Prepares for 20 Million Foreign Visitors in 2023

Optimistic about the island’s future

Covid-19 is one of the worst crises that Phuket’s tourism operators have faced, but they must remain optimistic about the island’s future, he says. Mr Kittikorn believes that the tourism industry will fully recover in two years and that restarting tourism now will not be as difficult as it was two decades ago when only 2 million tourists visited Phuket each year before arrivals increased to 15 million.

According to Mr Kittikorn, one of the lessons learned from the pandemic is that businesses must act quickly in the face of drastic change, and they must abandon some practices that work in a normal situation.

When Phuket FantaSea reopened in late February of last year, the stage was set for the opening of Carnival Magic, which had been under construction for several years on the plot adjacent to Phuket FantaSea.

“Carnival Magic is one of the country’s largest investments, and with no new products introduced in the region, it will become the’star,’ offering visitors unique experiences, world-class services, and creativity,” he explained.

He believes that the opening of the nighttime theme park will attract more international tourists and help revitalize the island’s tourism industry.

He hopes to welcome two million tourists this year, with a 70:30 split between international and domestic markets, with the majority of foreign visitors coming from India, China, Europe, Australia, and the Middle East.

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