Tourism plays a pivotal role in many nations GDP and national economy. In 2019 it contributed 3 billion Thai Baht to Thailand, a figure which was only growing year by year. With the recent rollout of SEXY and Phuket announcing it’s open to foreign travellers from October 2021, the analysts at ForwardKeys decided to see what the data says about the fragile future of the travel eco-system in the land of Elephants.

Thailand brings SEXY back

In February, Thailand introduced a four-layered tourism concept, SEXY (S – Safety and Hygiene, E – Environmental Sustainability, X – Extra Experiences and Y – Yield), to reshape the image of Thailand and help restore traveller’s confidence.

In the week of 19 February, there was a surge of +110% in tickets issued compared to the previous week. The increase in tickets was mainly led by tickets from the UK which accounted for 28% of tickets compared to 13% in the previous week and 4% in the same week of 2019, following the UK PM announcement on the roadmap to reopening on 22 February.

Issued tickets only increased once Thailand announced the re-opening of Phuket on 26 March. During the week of 26 March, issued tickets increased +53% compared to the previous week – although it was still only 2.5% of 2019 levels.

In July, when Thailand is set to re-open Phuket with no quarantine, forward tickets to Thailand witnessed a +90% month-over-month increase compared to June. This equals 4% of 2019 tickets levels compared to 2% the month before.

A changing travel audience to consider

Like many destinations, hotels and airlines have noticed, travel post-pandemic will have “New Normals” and has even shifted the “typical” type of traveller.

In the case of Thailand, people have started booking for Q4, as Thailand is set to open for quarantine free travel from October. December is set to be the peak travel time, as of 1 April 2021, forward tickets for travel to Thailand in December reach 24% of tickets issued as of the same time in 2019.

“From this Air Ticketing Data, we can see three major trends”, says Jameson Wong, Director of APAC.

“People are now booking longer trips abroad, preferring to travel alone and Thailand is attracting more interest from the UK and the US than Oceania (including Australia). This data reveals new opportunities for travel operators and tourism organisations in Thailand,” adds Wong.

Indeed, for travel during April and December 2021:

  1. There is a longer length of stays compared to 2019 levels, with 9-21 nights witnessing a 13% increase in shares compared to 2019 levels and accounting for 47% of all tickets.
  2. Solo passengers are increasing their share: 25% in 2021 vs 17% in 2019. Couple travel remains around 35% share (36% in 2021 vs 34% in 2019). On the other hand, family travel of 3-5 passengers has decreased a little (32% in 2021 vs 34% in 2019). 6+more pax decreased (7% in 2021 vs 15% in 2019).

The most revealing data is that travellers from nearby Asia, who used to contribute 25% of shares in 2019 are down to just 9%, while travellers from the Americas has doubled in the same period.

“This is an exciting opportunity for Thailand to apply some of its SEXY ideas such as Environmental Sustainability and Extra Experiences to attract and retain these travellers from newer source markets by doing fresh initiatives such as rural or gastro tourism in lesser-known parts of beautiful Thailand,” shares Wong.

As Thailand starts to welcome international travellers back from June, many other destinations will be keen to see how all pans out and whether the above-shared data will shape the way tourism evolves past 2021.