Activity buzzed at the Thailand booth on a bustling Tuesday afternoon during IFTM. "We see that there are no more restrictions, and people are here for business," said Teerasil Tapen, Vice-Governor in charge of digitalization, research, and development at Thailand's National Office of Tourism.
Last year, only ten Thai exhibitors attended IFTM in Paris. This year, there are 23. To be part of the delegation, each exhibitor had to demonstrate their commitment to sustainable tourism. Otherwise, they wouldn't have been able to participate. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) initiated the Sustainable Tourism Acceleration Rating (STAR) project to promote sustainable tourism and bolster Thailand's position as a sustainable destination, aligning with the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Companies meeting the program's self-assessment criteria receive the Sustainable Star certificate, valid for two years.
Sustainable development remains a primary focus for Thailand, which aims to move beyond its reputation as just a seaside resort and encourages travelers to explore beyond Phuket. "Thailand is a paradise, with numerous discoveries waiting to be made," emphasizes Teerasil Tapen. This message has been a constant refrain since the country reopened.
Thailand is actively working to emphasize its culture, a form of "soft power" centered around the "5 Fs" - Food, Festival, Fashion, Film, and Fight (for martial arts).
The goal is to attract 500,000 French tourists to Thailand this year, but there are still challenges. The cost of air travel remains a deterrent. "Flights are a challenge for the tourism industry worldwide," says Teerasil Tapen. Expanding capacity takes time. Since the beginning of the year, 350,000 French tourists have visited Thailand, and the destination aims to reach a total of 500,000 by the end of 2023, compared to 745,290 in 2019.
To boost tourism, Thailand is considering extending visa-free stays to 60 days, encouraging longer visits. After allowing travelers to stay for 45 days without a visa, the authorities reduced this duration to 30 days due to the pandemic. Discussions on this matter are ongoing.
Regarding the new traveler tax, which has been discussed extensively, it is still relevant but not yet operational, according to Teerasil Tapen. This tax, roughly €7, will be integrated into airfare. "It will be seamless for travelers," assures Teerasil Tapen. The tax serves two purposes: covering potential health expenses for travelers on-site and enhancing tourist infrastructure. There is no specific launch date for this tax, and all foreign travelers will be subject to it, regardless of their visa status.
The Thai government has set an ambitious target of welcoming 30 million visitors in 2023, nearly triple the 11 million received last year.