BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) - Thailand is looking to attract Indian travellers during the traditional holiday season to boost its tourism-reliant economy that has been hit hard by the absence of mass holidaymakers from countries including China.
The Thai tourism industry expects Indians to resume travel in large numbers next month during Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, said Ms Somsong Sachaphimukh, vice-president of the Thai Tourism Council.
That should help spark a tourism revival as it coincides with the planned waiver of quarantine for vaccinated visitors from Nov 1, she said.
With the outbound Chinese travel not expected to resume any time soon, Thailand is betting on travellers from other origins to take advantage of its relaxed rules for tourists. Indians, who made up the third-largest group of visitors to Thailand before the pandemic, may head again to Thai beaches for holidays, conferences and destination weddings, Ms Somsong said.
"If Thailand plans to reopen the country and many of our tourism hubs in November, this year's Diwali may be a great opportunity," Ms Somsong told an online briefing on Tuesday (Sept 28). "Indian travellers have a lot of spending power and a lot of potential."
Indian travellers may spend between 27,000 baht (S$1,082) and 76,000 baht each during trips to Thailand, and each destination wedding could generate between 10 million to 120 million baht in revenue for the hotel and services industry, Ms Somsong said.
Almost two million Indians visited Thailand in 2019, generating 80 billion baht in tourism-related revenue, according to official data. They were the largest group behind Chinese and Malaysians that year when the nation saw almost 40 million tourists generating more than US$60 billion (S$81 billion) in revenue.
"Even though it will be difficult to match the number of visitors and revenue generated by Chinese travellers, Indian tourists can help support Thailand's tourism industry during this time," Ms Somsong said.
Thailand saw foreign tourist arrivals plunge to 73,932 in the first eight months of the year with the nation reeling under the worst Covid-19 outbreak that triggered widespread travel and business curbs. The pandemic has led to three million job losses in the tourism sector, the council said, while slashing its tourist arrival forecast to 280,000 this year from 500,000 earlier.