Thailand woos Gulf visitors


Thailand is making an all-out effort to attract more Middle East, especially GCC, visitors this year.

The Asian country aims to tap into the growing flow of regional tourists towards Asia following last September's attacks in the US which has sharply reduced Middle Eastern holiday traffic to the US and Europe.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand which is mounting a strong presence at the ATM, says its main focus will be attracting more tourists from the Gulf, specially family tourists.

"We are promoting Thailand as the place for all the members of the family," said Talal Awad, marketing executive with the authority.

He said Middle East families, which are usually high-spending tourists, used to travel to the US and Europe, but after September 11, these families will be travelling to Asian countries.

Awad said tourist arrivals from the region to Thailand has been climbing over the past several years, nearly doubling from 119,198 in 1996 to 200,523 in 2000.

UAE nationals topped arrivals at 25,599 in 2000 followed by Kuwaitis at 17,203 with Saudi Arabian visitors accounting for 12,362 arrivals.

Worldwide, Thailand expects to recoup tourism levels this year after the setbacks of last year when arrivals fell short of an expected 10.5 million visitors.

Awad said GCC and Middle East visitors were also among the highest spenders in Thailand accounting for an average of $115 per night per person with nearly half of it spent on shopping. The spending was significantly higher compared to an average of between $80 and $88 by tourists from other parts of the world.

Awad said Thailand offered many attractions to meet the needs of families from the region including Halal food in restaurants and Hotels, Mediterranean supermarkets in Bangkok, theme parks and fun cities for children and much more.

He said the tourism authority has launched a new Thai Grand Festival campaign, to build upon the success of the Amazing Thailand promotion of 1998 -1999.