The Tourism Authority of Thailand has set a target to increase the number of Indian visitors to 600,000 this year from 500,000 in 2007 by focusing on attracting people in major cities that have high purchasing power.
India is one of the emerging markets that TAT aimed to conduct a proactive promotion plan this year. Last year, the promotion plan was implemented in six cities, including New Delhi, Bombay, Chennai, Calcutta, Bangalore and Hyderabad. Thai Airways International has already offered direct flights from Bangkok to the six cities.
The number of Indian visitors to Thailand via Suvarnabhumi Airport in 2007 was 494,259, up 19.22 % from 414,582 in the previous year.
Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, director of TAT’s overseas office in New Delhi, said this year, the agency would expand a marketing plan to other major cities such as Pune, located around 150 kilometres east of Mumbai. It is the second largest city in the Maharashtra State.
Others are Ahmedabad, the largest city and the capital of Gujarat, and Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab.
However, there are no direct flights from Bangkok to these cities.
He said a key obstacle to attracting Indian visitors is a lack of direct flights from many cities to Thai tourism destinations such as Phuket, Krabi and Samui.
Indian tourists normally favour visits to Bangkok and Pattaya.
But under the marketing plan this year, other destinations including Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Koh Chang, Phuket, Samui and Krabi would be offered to attract them. The government is now in the process of increasing direct flights from India because of high demand.
The marketing plan has a budget of 30 million baht and would focus on four groups of people: wedding couples, families, tourists seeking medical treatment and visitors for film shooting in Thailand.
The wedding group is an interesting target as spending per couple might reach 10 million baht because the wedding normally takes many days with several visitors participating.
The agency had already sent 200,000 information packages to encourage weddings in Thailand.
Fortunately, Indian families favour travel to Thailand in May-July while students favour the summer. Each family travels with an average four persons per trip. Each member spends around 5,000 baht daily for a six-day stay.
Mr Chattan said Thailand’s competitors for the Indian market were Malaysia and Singapore. In 2007, Thailand ranked second in the region after Singapore, which attracted 700,000 Indian visitors.
The number of international arrivals between Asean and India has shown steady growth since 2004. The number last year was 1.5 million, while around 280,000 Asean nationals visited India.
India set a target to attract one million tourists from Asean by 2010.
Officials have sought ways to facilitate business travel between Asean and India, including simplifying visa requirements and aviation.
The number of Indians outbound was 8.34 million in 2007 while that of foreign visitors to India was five million.