The long-awaited reopening of Thailand finally came into effect on 1 November, allowing fully-vaccinated international arrivals from 63 countries to fly into the Kingdom without having to undergo a multi-day quarantine. The first day of its official reopening saw over 6,600 passengers fly into international airports across the country, with more than 135,000 expected to arrive throughout November. After nearly 20 months of closed borders, these new regulations and figures are a welcome sight.
To help us navigate the travel landscape in Thailand, Destination Asia Thailand’s Product Manager, Hayo Massop, is on hand to give insight into what trends we are likely to see, new experiences available, and how Destination Asia Thailand is preparing for a more responsible future.
What travel trends do you expect to see in Thailand in 2022?
Our clients tell us emphatically that customers are already incredibly eager to get back to Thailand, and our research shows that they will be willing to spend more money on luxury accommodation options and for longer periods of time. Rather than rushing to fit everything in quickly, travel in 2022 will see travellers spending more time to absorb and explore the destination, opting to fly to one destination and then continue by train, car, or by bike.
Family travel will continue to prevail, however, we also expect a sharp rise in both conscious and wellness-focused travellers. Conscious travellers are mindful of the impact on a destination and are likely to plan more meaningful travel experiences that include supporting local businesses, trying local cuisine, and opting for private excursions with a smaller number of guests. As for wellness, nothing beats a relaxing Thai massage for both body and soul.
Thailand is well known as a mature destination. How is the product on offer developing to keep travellers coming back?
We have many itineraries on offer for guests who like to explore more “off the beaten track” which help uncover truly authentic Thailand destinations like Nan, Mae Hong Son, and the Isaan region. These areas are full of cultural experiences including historical parks and old Khmer ruins coupled with beautiful mountain scenery.
We also highly recommend exploring the lesser-known islands in Thailand. Island hopping has always been popular with backpackers, but even for the seasoned and luxury travellers, there are now some great hotels on offer on the smaller tropical gems. Combine, for example, the popular island of Koh Samui with the smaller islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. Or well-known Phuket combined with a few nights on Koh Lanta or Koh Yao.
What new experiences can clients expect to see on offer in Thailand now that border restrictions are being relaxed?
As international arrivals are still low compared to pre-pandemic numbers, visiting Thailand during this current period is the perfect opportunity to experience the country at a slower pace. It will be, undoubtedly, a phased return to normalcy, so initially one will be able to experience all that Thailand has to offer but with fewer crowds! Nature too has had a chance to recover during the closure and even the waters around the islands are clearer and more pristine than ever.
We have been diligently working on some new tours for our sightseeing tariff 2022-23, focusing particularly on authentic travel experiences. We’ve reached out to many of our suppliers and have created new curated experiences, such as ‘Another side of Ayutthaya’, farm-to-table culinary programmes, as well as visiting a local Thai rum factory in Phuket. Additionally, for the sun worshippers, there are still so many islands and beaches in Thailand that are less crowded and situated away from mass tourism, such as Koh Chang and Koh Kood in the East or the charming beach town of Khanom in the South.
How is Destination Asia changing business practices to be more responsible?
At Destination Asia Thailand we have set up a dedicated Green Team, which I am an active member of on behalf of the product team. As an active member of Travelife, Destination Asia Thailand meets the standards of over 200 sustainability criteria that can be grouped into five key areas: Office operations; Product Development; Working with Suppliers; Customer relations and Destinations.
Going forward, one of our key goals in 2021-22 is to reduce disposable and consumable goods. To reduce the amount of single-use plastic waste, the standard transfers and excursions we operate are excluding plastic bottled water and cold towels wrapped in plastic and we encourage our guests to carry refillable water bottles instead.
We are also committed to ensuring accommodation and excursion suppliers are made aware of our key sustainability goals and objectives. More and more hotels have sustainability policies in place and are engaged in CSR initiatives that benefit the local communities. On our dedicated Agent Hub, we promote these hotels that focus on sustainability and sustainability practices in place. We strictly do not offer any excursions that do not comply with our animal welfare guidelines and we select elephant camps that focus on sustainable practices in line with international organizations like Travelife, ANIMONDIAL, and ACES. We also develop and offer excursions that focus on local communities and authentic experiences.
Of course, health and safety will be one of guests’ key priorities, with many associating higher-end properties with better public health protocols. In response, Destination Asia has upgraded all of our safety protocols in accordance with the government-sponsored Safety and Health Administration (SHA) certification programme, including the choice of suppliers with whom we work.
Where is your favourite travel destination in Thailand and why?
I cannot choose between the mountains and the islands as I love both! That’s why I think Thailand is a perfect destination to travel to. The combination of a world-class city like Bangkok, the beautiful mountain scenery in the North, and the amazing tropical islands in the South makes it my favourite country in the world.
I love Koh Phangan as it was the first island I explored almost 20 years ago and it still has that laid back atmosphere and great jungle scenery, but now with better quality hotels to relax for a few days. It is within easy access from Koh Samui, but the island still feels “off the beaten track” for most visitors.
In the North, I love to travel to Chiang Mai, Pai, and Mae Hong Son. The views and nature through the mountains in this part of Thailand is amazing. Along the way, you can make stops at local hill tribe villages and enjoy some great coffee. Pai is a relaxing town and Mae Hong Son is home to the Huay Pu Keng ‘long neck’ tribe, which I recommend guests spend a little more time with and experience one of the workshops to make their own souvenir, so the money flows back into the community.