Thailand’s plan to target high-spending foreigners to kick-start its travel sector has a green light after winning Cabinet approval and additional support from the nation’s aviation regulator.
The Southeast Asian nation lifted on July 1 a near-total ban on foreign travellers. The majority of arrivals in the initial phase will be foreigners with direct ties to Thailand — such as those with businesses, major investments or family in the country. The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand added a clause to also allow those who have “special arrangements” with the government.
“Many in the high-spending, high-income groups avoided direct impact from the pandemic, but couldn’t come here because of travel restrictions,” Chula Sukmanop, director general of the CAAT, said in an interview. “I’ve spoken with private aircraft operators who said they have plenty of potential customers looking to charter a plane to here.”
The “special arrangement” group widens the market for “big spenders,” whose applications could be treated on a “fast-track basis that requires case-by-case approval,” Chula said. The biggest proportion of visitors in the initial phase will qualify through one of the travel-bubble agreements Thailand makes with other nations, he said.
“There will be a lot of competition from other tourism-dependent countries for the ultra-luxury segment,” Somprawin Manprasert, chief economist at Bank of Ayudhya Pcl, said in a phone interview. “This won’t do much to help the many small hotel operators in the country,” he said, adding that “it’s not enough to compensate for overall revenue lost.”