BANGKOK – As Thailand gradually reopens its borders, new findings from a global study suggests that four out of five (82%) Thais are confident that Thailand is well-prepared to reopen its tourism and leisure activities, the highest globally.
The study also found that tourists from Hong Kong, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, and India are all targeting Thailand as their first destination when their countries’ borders reopen.
Jointly conducted by leading social research agency Blackbox Research, data provider Dynata, and language partner Language Connect, Unravel Travel: Fear & Possibilities in a Post Coronavirus (COVID-19) World examines the sentiments, preferences, and expectations of 10,195 people across 17 countries regarding travel in a post-COVID-19 world.
Thailand’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism, with foreign tourist dollars contributing around 11% to the national economy. The vast majority (93%) of Thais recognise the importance of the tourism sector is to the local economy. In fact, 22% of Thais agree that there is an urgent need for tourism boards, including their own, to promote tourism for economic reasons – the highest globally.
Saurabh Sardana, Chief Operating Officer of Blackbox Research, said that both regional interest and citizen sentiment towards restarting local tourism have been encouraging, especially given the country’s phased approach in reopening to business and medical tourists. Mr Sardana notes that establishing traveller’s trust in health and safety protocols is key, and that Thailand needs to capitalise on its success in containing the COVID-19 outbreak.
“It is evident from our findings the immense value tourism contributes to Thailand’s economy. As Thailand progressively opens its borders to international visitors, its immediate priority will be to regain traveller confidence, through reinforcing how Thailand has in place strict health and safety measures, keeping everyone safe."
“In turn, businesses and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) need to work collaboratively and ensure full compliance with these measures, and effectively communicate their efforts through the right channels. Only through stringent health protocols and regular public communication can the tourism industry successfully revitalise itself."
“With Thailand’s currently low rate of coronavirus infections, and its strong public health system which played a key role in its tackling of the pandemic, the country is well placed to be recognised on the regional and global stage as a trusted destination.”
Amongst Southeast Asian countries, Thailand has the strongest domestic appeal. 91% of Thais are keen to support local travel attractions in the next 12 months – a positive sign given Thailand’s recent investment of 22.4 billion baht (US$720 million) to stimulate its domestic tourism, of which partial financial aid will be provided to local tourists for selected hotels and restaurants throughout the country.
Mr Sardana noted that, while the financial aid will definitely play a part in encouraging locals to travel domestically, the government needs to also take into consideration how travel priorities have shifted in response to the pandemic.
“Our study has found that price is not necessarily the highest priority for their next trip – this applies to all the key areas such as transport (18%), accommodation (15%), and attraction (10%). Instead, visitor safety measures overwhelmingly ranked top of the list for most Thai travellers (transport – 43%; accommodation – 46%; attraction – 53%).”
“To complement these stimulus measures, both the government and tourism operators need to work together to ensure safety and cleanliness protocols are met at all times, giving travellers a sense of security as domestic tourism demand begins to kick in. Establishing confidence amongst locals will also help tell the story of trust to a wider international audience.”
Commenting on the significance of the study’s findings, Mr Sardana said, “What the study has shown us is that the pandemic has unequivocally shifted how we see travel. In order for travel industry players to stay relevant, they need to change the way they approach every aspect and touchpoint in the traveller experience, emphasising safety and rebuilding trust.”
Other key findings from the survey were:
Travel dreams dampened – for now
- Overall, international leisure travel in the short term is off the schedule for most people, with 44% of respondents still keen to avoid international vacations.
- Notably, Japanese (32%), Filipinos (42%), New Zealanders (43%) and Australians (52%) are least eager to take long-haul trips.
- Australia and Japan emerged as the two most popular destinations for Asian travellers, while Spain is on the top of the list of European travellers given their June COVID-19 cases saw a downward trend.
- The countries whose tourism appeal took the biggest hit during the pandemic are China, Italy, and the US.
Tourism to champion safety, contactless experience
- Globally, 80% are willing to pay more for safer accommodation, and 74% are open to paying a higher premium for travel insurance in exchange for protection against pandemics.
- 76% of respondents indicated that their preferred travel destinations will be countries that offer more contactless experiences.
- An overwhelming 66% prefer to travel in their own vehicles for road trips between cities or countries, compared to travelling on a plane (18%), rented or private-hire car or taxi (9%), and buses and trains (7%).
Travel reimagined in the new normal
- In terms of what the future of travel looks like, the study found that e-boarding passes (44%), touchless lavatories (43%), contactless journeys from airports to hotels (40%), no more middle seats in transportation (36%), and digital health passports (35%) are some of the new ideas which global travellers hope to see implemented in the near future.