BANGKOK:The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and the recently established Online Tourism Club (Thailand) are seeking ways to minimise online operators that sell lower-quality tour packages, especially in the Chinese FIT (free independent traveller) sector, to protect the interests of both tourists and Thai tourism-service providers.
TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said: “Tourism is vital to Thailand’s economy, so it is the job of the public and private sectors to work together to ensure high standards as well as standardise prices. We must ensure that tourism remains sustainable and fair for everyone, and that all tourists continue to feel welcome and valued.”
The initiatives to minimise below-quality online offerings are in line with the government’s recent implementation of measures aimed at eradicating tours that take advantage of visitors to Thailand, especially group tours from China. The measures have been successful in protecting group tourists, but newer cases of low prices offered by online overseas agents in China have emerged, many aimed at the FIT sector.
Attempts to address this led to a meeting of Thai tourism-industry players last December, which resulted in the formation of the Online Tourism Club (Thailand) in January.
Nipon Boonmasuwaran, President of the club, said: “Some online travel agents are more interested in increasing website traffic and building databases in order to boost their company’s shareholding values than in offering memorable holidays to tourists planning trips to Thailand. By selling [cheap tours], they have undermined the industry, creating unfair conditions for operators. Now we need to tackle unscrupulous operators targeting FIT travellers.”
The club, which is made up of 44 members who represent tour operators and attractions across Thailand, is working with TAT and relevant public and private agencies to stem the practice of selling below-quality tours online in the FIT market, especially in China. This is a sector with huge growth potential for Thailand and many FIT travellers seek out tickets and deals via online channels.
During the first four months of this year, Thailand welcomed 12 million visitors, spending around Bt620 billion, an increase of 4.71 per cent from the same period last year. Of this number, 7.5 million came from East Asia, generating Bt308 billion. China remained the leading source market at about 3.2 million arrivals, who generated Bt161 billion in tourism revenue.