National Elephant Day
Thailand has welcomed 23.2 million foreign tourists and received 981.7 billion baht in foreign tourist receipts this year. Image Credit: Reuters

Tourism-reliant Thailand is lining up hundreds of cultural and sporting events, and may waive visa requirements for travelers from more European countries, as it works to induce holidaymakers to stay longer and spend more.

The Southeast Asian nation “- popular for its vibrant nightlife, beaches and national parks “- is discussing a plan to let tourists of some European nationalities stay as long as 90 days, Prommin Lertsuridej, a top aide to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, said in an interview Thursday. There will also be about 3,000 events like music concerts, marathons and other cultural festivities organized through to next year to draw tourists, he said.

Srettha, who became prime minister in August, has identified tourism as a “quick win” to accelerate Thailand’s economic growth. His administration has temporarily waived visa requirements for travelers from Russia, China, Kazakhstan, India and Taiwan, and ordered airlines to add more routes while streamlining airport operations to cut waiting time for visitors. It also plans to allow nightlife entertainment venues in some areas of Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Chonburi to operate until 4 a.m. starting next month.

While Thailand has rolled back most pandemic-era curbs on visitors, average spending per traveler has lagged pre-Covid levels and missed official estimates.

In 2019, the country saw record foreign arrivals “- almost 40 million “- which generated 1.91 trillion baht in revenue. That year, each tourist spent an average of 47,895 baht per trip which lasted nine days on average, according to official data. As of November 12 this year, Thailand has welcomed 23.2 million foreign tourists and received 981.7 billion baht in foreign tourist receipts. That means it’s currently tracking about 12 per cent below the 2019 per-trip spending benchmark.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand has set a goal to raise foreign tourism revenue back to pre-Covid levels, targeting at least 2 trillion baht ($57 billion) in 2024.

Srettha last week announced the “Winter Festival” celebrations that will include the Loi Krathong festival, Bangkok Marathon and New Year. The event is designed to showcase Thailand’s unique culture and attract tourists during the high season between November and January.

“We will design more attractions and promotions to incentivize tourists to stay longer,” Prommin, who is secretary-general to the premier, said. “Longer stay, more events to attract them, more fun on the nightlife scene. This is how we’re planning for tourists to spend more.”