Thailand wants to lose its reputation for being ‘cheap’, aims to become premium travel destination

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The view from a luxury resort in Koh Samui. File Photo

Thailand is perhaps synonymous with cheap or affordable holidays.

But that looks set to change, if recent comments by Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul are anything to go by.

The days of Thailand being regarded as a cheap holiday destination for foreign tourists appears to be coming to an end.

Speaking on Monday (July 4) at an event aimed at promoting tourism in Thailand, Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said the country should aim to become a “premium travel destination”.

Mr Anutin told representatives from many of the country’s leading hoteliers, businesses and private hospitals that they should no longer offer big discounts as a means to attract foreign tourists.

“We cannot let people come to Thailand and stay because it’s cheap,” said Mr Anutin who was speaking at the Thailand Moving Together, which was held at Suvarnabhumi airport.

Mr Anutin even made comparisons between Thailand and the luxury fashion brand Louis Vuitton.

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“Hold your ground. Sell premium. The more expensive, the more customers,” he said.

“Otherwise Louis Vuitton wouldn’t have any sales.”

Mr Anutin’s remarks were also echoed by Tourism and Sports Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakarn, who said: “Instead they should say ‘because it works, it’s reasonable’, that’s where we can increase value”.

BANGKOK, THAILAND – AUGUST 25, 2018: Chinese tourists queue up in front of a Louis Vuitton boutique during a sale, Siam Paragon department store. File photo

Recent years have seen Thailand repeatedly announce various strategies aimed at attracting so-called “quality tourists” who offer greater spending power.

In October 2021, Deputy Prime Minister and Energy Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow said Thailand’s post pandemic recovery of its tourism industry would focus on quality rather than quantity.

“Instead of relying on 40 million tourists to generate 2 trillion baht in revenue, we will turn to focus on quality tourists who can spend more,” Mr Supattanapong said.

“This will be good for the country’s environment and natural resources,” he added.

But Thailand’s push to attract high quality tourists predates the pandemic.

Back in 2017, Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) credited the strategy of targeting higher quality tourists with a then rise in tourism revenue.

“2016 was another record year for Thailand’s tourism industry, and we hope to maintain this momentum and attract even more visitors over the next few months,

He stressed, “I’d like to point out that the growth of revenue was larger than the growth in visitor numbers indicating that the strategy of targeting higher spending, higher quality tourists had been a great success over the past year.”

Speaking on 30 January, 2017, Mr. Yuthasak said: “2016 was another record year for Thailand’s tourism industry, and we hope to maintain this momentum and attract even more visitors over the next few months.

“I’d like to point out that the growth of revenue was larger than the growth in visitor numbers indicating that the strategy of targeting higher spending, higher quality tourists had been a great success over the past year,” he added.

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