As Thailand’s Government mulls over the idea of Travel Bubbles the tourism minister has decided on a new strategy, target rich tourists. Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn says target rich tourist rather than try to attract a large number of poorer tourists.
Rich tourists who are seeking privacy and social distancing in the new post Covid-19 era.
The pandemic provides an opportunity to reset the sector, which had become reliant on poor Chinese groups and backpackers, he said in an interview with Bloomberg News.
Once the country’s borders are reopened and so-called travel bubbles are agreed upon, marketing efforts will be geared toward rich tourists who want holidays with minimal risks.
The government will initially allow a small number of arrivals, such as rich business executives and medical tourists. It is also working with the travel industry to identify and invite individuals in target demographics. Which will probably include previous visitors to luxury resorts in the islands of Phuket; Samui; Phangan; and Phi Phi he said.
Phuket is “a prototype”
Rich tourists may be required to pass Covid-19 screenings before traveling and upon arriving. Then choose a single resort island and remain for a minimum period of time.
The “high-end visitors” (The Rich) will be able to travel freely while they’re on the island. Then be allowed to leave for home or other destinations in Thailand. Only once their minimum 14 day quarantine has passed. Thai Tourism plans to court the Rich, possibly during the winter months of November-February. A time when Rich European and American travelers seek out warmer climates, Mr Phiphat said.
“One person can easily spend as much as five by staying at the finest hotels,” he said. Adding that full and free travel should become a “thing of the past.” He however didn’t elaborate on how this scheme would will help lower end hotels and businesses. Many of which are facing financial ruin from his governments draconian lockdown.
Thailand is not the only country grappling with the question of how and when to reopen for visitors. Across Southeast Asia — one of the most tourism-reliant regions in the world — hotels and travel businesses are slowly kicking into gear. Asian countries that have succeeded in flattening their virus curves ease lockdown restrictions.
Travel Bubbles with rich tourists
Thailand’s first few travel-bubble pacts, with nations such as Japan and Australia, probably will not be ready until at least August, Mr Phiphat said. Thailand also is mulling a program to allow visitors from specific Chinese cities and provinces, he said.
Thailand’s borders are currently locked to all but essential travel through June 30. Most restrictions on domestic travel were lifted this month. The goal is for Thailand to have 10 million foreign arrivals this year — one-quarter of the 2019 tally — Phiphat said.
Total tourism revenue is forecast at 1.23 trillion baht (US$39.6 billion) this year, down 59% from last year.
The tourism sector will account for about 6% of gross domestic product in 2020, down from 18% last year, Phiphat said. The dearth of travelers is one reason Thailand’s economy is forecast to contract as much as 6% this year. The government is rolling out stimulus worth 15% of GDP, according to World Bank estimates.
Out with poor in with the rich
A lockdown, social distancing, tight control of borders and near-universal adoption of face masks enabled Thailand to restrict its official virus tally to just over 3,000, with 58 deaths.
The government has recently relaxed the lockdown and has detected no local transmission of covid-19 for more than three weeks.
Mr Phiphat said Thailand sees the crisis as an opportunity to address problems that existed before covid-19. Like over-crowding at some beaches and temples and environmental destruction.
In the quiet months without foreign travelers, sea turtles have returned to lay eggs on Thai beaches; pink dolphins have been seen frolicking with fishermen; and manatees swam to shore to snack on sea grass, Phiphat said.
“If we don’t use this chance to create the most benefit for the industry, Thailand will lose out,” he said. “This is an opportunity to reset the entire tourism system.”