Thai tourism makes a cautious recovery

Tourists return to the famous “walking street” in Pattaya.

Thailand is one of the first countries in Asia to see a rebound in tourism from the pandemic, driven by positive signals from both foreign and domestic travelers, according to

“Thailand leads Asia in terms of tourist arrivals, but it is not yet at 2019 levels,” said Omri Morgenstern, CEO of Agoda, an online travel platform focused on Asia.

Although the internal search rate in August was 39% lower than the same period in 2019, the rate has been rising since the start of 2022.

Mr Morgenshtern said it would take about 3-6 months for incoming search rates to return to pre-pandemic levels if major internal markets such as Japan, mainland China or Hong Kong were to fully open up.

Meanwhile, search rates for domestic travel increased 50% in August compared to 2019, thanks to government stimulus plans such as “We Travel Together” and Agoda’s collaboration with the Thai government and the tourism sector.

According to Agoda data, Thais mostly traveled to secondary cities and raised their reservations to more luxury hotels than usual.

However, outbound search rates remained nearly 50% lower than in 2019, as Japan, the most popular destination for Thai tourists, continues to impose entry restrictions, prompting people to choose destinations such as Singapore, South Korea, the United States and Europe.

Another reason behind this trend, he said, is that people in Asia are still living with post-pandemic shock.

For example, most people in Thailand and South Korea still wear face masks, despite the lifting of Covid-19 regulations, compared to situations in the United States or Europe.

“It will take a little longer before the travel streak picks up, and that’s true everywhere, including Asia,” Morgenstern said.

He said that when departing flights fully return, domestic tourism will suffer as people will have more travel options. As a result, the Thai government has to be smart when stimulating tourist arrivals to support the industry, said Mr Morgenstern.

For 2023, he emphasized the importance of technology in Agoda’s strategies. For example, it will allow business partners to use its online platform to sell integrated tour packages, along with offering price freezes and low cost cancellations.

Over the past two years, Agoda launched hotel quarantine booking packages and a sandbox landing page in Phuket that allowed tourists to search for and book approved hotels.

Agoda is owned by Booking Holdings, which also operates, and Kayak.

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