Phuket targets Saudi and Australian markets

Tourists at the Sunday street market in Old Phuket Town. (Photo: Achadtaya Chuenniran)

Phuket tourism operators are banking on promising markets such as Australia and Saudi Arabia to sustain the industry during the low season.

Further relaxation of rules and a return to normal life are expected soon if the government declares Covid-19 to be endemic, said Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, chairman of the Phuket Tourist Association (PTA).

Based on this outlook, Phuket is set to host two major tourism events to show its preparedness: Thailand Tourism Congress 2022 from June 6-8 and Thailand Travel Mart Plus 2022 from June 8-10.

Mr Bhummikitti said the association last week held a two-day webinar titled “PTA Academy: Beat the Low Season” to help operators tap into key markets, such as India, Australia, China, and China. Saudi Arabia and South Korea.

“Australia was the second biggest market on the island, which can help support the lean season as July and August are winter holidays there,” said Suladda Sarutilavan, director of the Authority of Tourism of Thailand (TAT) for the Sydney office.

“They usually take trips abroad during school holidays.”

The main obstacle is the lack of direct flights. Currently, there are only direct flights from Sydney (4,629 seats per week) and Melbourne (4,592 seats per week) to Phuket and Bangkok.

Ms Suladda said TAT has urged Thai Airways to restart direct flights from Perth, where there is demand for visits to Phuket, amid stiff competition from Bali, Fiji and Vietnam.

The agency plans to appeal to potential segments including digital nomads, millennials, wellness tourists, wedding and honeymoon travel, and sports enthusiasts.

Chaiwat Tamthai, TAT’s director for Dubai and the Middle East office, said Thailand could see a significant increase in visitors from the Middle East as people flee the hot weather from June to August.

Thailand welcomed 11,994 Saudi tourists from May 1-25, thanks to the Eid al-Fitr holiday and daily flights from Saudia, its national airline, compared to just 4,107 tourists in the first four months of This year.

From June to July, TAT has a joint sales promotion with Wego, a major online travel agency with over one million monthly users, and Saudia.

Mr Chaiwat said tourism ads, including outdoor billboards, cinema ads and digital screens in department stores, will run from June to August, targeting families and millennials.

He said the Foreign Ministry was working on granting visa waivers for Saudis.

With visa-free entry, the number of Saudi tourists could top 200,000 a year, Chaiwat said.

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