Driving Roadtrips Top Thailand’s Tourism Recovery
Thailand’s domestic tourism reopening is shaping up to see Bangkok as the hub for an early return of daytrips, staycations and inter-provincial road trips. With over eight million residents coupled with a sprawling megacity catchment with a population base in excess of 15 million, the recovery of the country’s tourist economy is set to be staged from the capital city.
Focusing on Bangkok’s closest inter-provincial destinations, last year over 59 million domestic visitors were recorded in data collected from the Ministry of Tourism and Sports. Given Thailand’s total international visitor metric for 2019 was just above 39 million the clear massage for the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is to effectively fish where the fish are.
New research from hospitality consulting group C9 Hotelworks and Delivering Asia Communications has highlighted the Top 8 intra-provincial destinations within six hours driving time from Bangkok. They are in order of visitor numbers – Nakhon Ratchasima, Kanchanaburi, Chon Buri, Petchaburi, Rayong, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Prachuap Khiri Khan and Saraburi.
While reopening Thailand to international tourism will require cross-border bilateral agreements, the government’s current focus is to mobilize the critical mass of domestic travelers through a series of health, safety and economic measures. These steps which are expected to be implemented in June include a formal certification for hotels and tourism establishments under the Safety and Health Administration (SHA) and government sponsored financial aids to stimulate domestic travel.
In an informal polling process this week in Bangkok amongst a cross section of residents, there was an overwhelming sentiment that initial driving trips outside of the city to inter-provincial destinations was preferred, given the present uncertainty over quarantine processes when flying. We expect Thailand’s reopening storyline for the remainder of 2020 to be a highly domesticated one.
As for what provincial destinations were most mentioned in the poll, the top picks for Bangkokians were Hua Hin, Pattaya, and Khao Yai. Surprisingly Koh Chang drew considerable attention and many Thai’s expressed desire to drive further than six hours to Chiang Mai, Nan and even go overland to Phuket. For now, as the airspace above Thailand is relatively empty, the driving roadtrip is very much in the cards for Bangkok residents.