India is today the biggest source market for visitors from South Asia and one of the fastest growing markets for Thailand. In 2012, India became the sixth country to generate more than one million annual visitors, with a total of 1,015,865, (by country of nationality) up 11.03% over 2011.
In January – June 2013, Indian visitors to Thailand totalled 535,732, up 4.85% over the same period of 2012. For the full year 2013, TAT is expecting 1,100,700 visitors, generating an estimated 42.9 billion baht in tourism revenue. The Tourism Authority of Thailand expects that Indian arrivals across all segments will grow exponentially as the free trade agreements between India and ASEAN are implemented and aviation linkages increase.
Tourism Revenue in 2012
In 2012, visitors from India stayed an average of 7.15 days, while their average daily expenditure was 5,281.27 baht (US$169.93) per person. This generated about 37.22 billion baht (US$1,197 million) tourism exchange revenue to the Thai economy.
Some interesting travel trends from India to Thailand in 2012:
• 29% of Indian visitors were female which showed a good growth of 16.12% to 286,325 while male visitors were up by a much smaller rate of 8.43% to 699,558. The gender balance is still overwhelmingly male, but major efforts are under way to try and narrow the gap.
• By age group, the fastest-growing segment was the young generation aged under 25 (up by 22.99%) while senior citizens aged over 55 were up by 18.23%. This is evidence of a clear increase in family travellers.
• 51% of Indian arrivals were first-time visitors, up by 7.39% to 510,419, while repeat visitors were up by 14.16% to 475,464.
• 62.70% were independent travellers, up 12.85%, while visitors travelling as part of a group tour were up by 37.30% to 367,729.
There has been rapid growth in aviation access over the last five years. As of July 2013, there are 146 direct weekly services Thailand and major Indian cities including Delhi (42), Kolkata (35), Mumbai (35), Bangalore (7), Hyderabad (4), Chennai (14), Bagdogra (3), Guawahati (2) and Ahmedabad (2). These are operated by 9 airlines: Thai Airways International, IndiGo, Jet Airways, Air India, Thai Air Asia, Bangkok Airways, Air Austral, Kan Air and Thai Smile.
Thai Airways International alone has 52 flights a week. It has been operating to India for the past 53 years starting with Kolkata. It has operations from Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore, apart from seasonal services to Varanasi and Gaya. The airline recently launched THAI Smile, a sub brand of Thai Airways which operates twice a week from Delhi to Phuket, Mumbai to Phuket, and Ahmedabad to Bangkok.
Characteristics of the Indian Market
• Thailand is popular with Indian tourists because it is a short-haul destination and offers good value for money.
• Indian visitors generally are not crisis-sensitive. They tend to combine Thailand with other countries in the region.
• Popular tourist cities are Bangkok and Pattaya, but Phuket, Chiang Mai, Samui, Chiang Rai, Krabi, Ayutthaya and Koh Chang are becoming increasingly popular.
• Most favourite tourist activities in Thailand are shopping, sight-seeing, visiting historical sites, cultural tourism, amusement parks etc.
• Thailand is becoming increasingly popular with Indian film makers and as a weddings and honeymoon destination, especially Phuket and Hua Hin. Each wedding party is attended by hundreds of guests and lasts over several days, involving budgets of 5-10 million baht per event. A number of wedding planners based in Thailand offer excellent services to ensure smooth running of the event.
• As the size of the Indian resident expatriate community grows, a strong flow of VFR (visiting friends and relatives) traffic and students is projected.
• On the demand side, TAT plans to step up marketing efforts in the secondary cities of India, such as Pune, Chandigarh, Coimbatore, Mangalore and Jaipur.
• Convention delegates from India are projected to recover from the decline after the free-trade agreements make progress. Thailand has huge exhibitions catering to major Indian business areas such as gems and jewellery, agriculture and Information Technology.
• One key strategy is to step up marketing efforts targeted at high-spending Indian travellers. India’s ace golfer, 24-year-old Gaganjeet Bhullar, has been appointed as a Brand Ambassador for a campaign to promote Thailand as one of the most sought after golfing destinations.
• The spending power of Indians has increased. The trend for shopping in Thailand is still popular. Indians have now shifted to higher category of hotels.
The advent of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) as of 2015 will boost increased awareness, increase in trade & cultural affaires, exchange of delegations, trade shows & conferences, all leading to increase volume of travellers.
The Thai Immigration authorities are also considering revoking a regulation that requires applicants for visa on arrival at the airport to show proof of funds equivalent to US$500. When this is done, it will facilitate arrivals by removing what has often been cited as a major nuisance if not necessarily an obstacle.