TAT hoping to woo 500,000 Koreans this year

BUSINESS: As Thailand and South Korea have started to ease travel restrictions, Thai tourism has high hopes of attracting more than 500,000 Korean tourists this year before surging to 1.3 million next year, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

Tourists stroll along Phuket’s Walking Street, which is known locally as ‘Lard-Yai’. Photo: Achadtaya Chuenniran

However, outbound tourists from Thailand are still encountering a glitch with the Korea Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA) registration, according to the Thai Travel Agents Association (TTAA).

Tourism exchange between the two countries has been gaining momentum since the TAT held its first marketing event in South Korea in two years last week, providing 15 sellers from Thailand with the opportunity to hold business matching meetings with 32 buyers from Seoul, said Thanet Phetsuwan, TAT deputy governor of marketing for Asia and South Pacific.

During the event entitled “Amazing Thailand Sales Connection to Korea 2022”, the agency also met with the chief executives of two of Korea’s biggest outbound tour agents, Song Mi Sun from Hana Tour and Yu In Tae from Mode Tour, to shed light on Thailand’s reopening roadmap and current policies regarding the viral situation, reports the Bangkok Post.

“We urged them to cooperate in selling more upper segment packages, particularly luxury, golf, incentive as well as tours with chartered flights in the upcoming high season to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Hua Hin and other potential destinations,” said Mr Thanet.

He said air traffic between the two countries would benefit from 50 additional flights in July, both scheduled and chartered services, mainly driven by extensive marketing promotions following the travel restrictions and new routes offered by low-cost carriers, particularly Thai AirAsia X which has resumed flights from Bangkok to Korea this month, with a load factor of more than 95%.

South Korea was a major inbound source market for Thailand with over 1.88mn tourists, generating B75 billion, visiting in 2019.

In 2022, Thailand expects to welcome 500,000 South Koreans and 1.3mn next year.

The Thai outbound market, which peaked at 500,000 tourists in 2019, still faces some confusion regarding the K-ETA system, which is an app tourists must use before entering South Korea to help screen tourists from countries that are granted visa exemption.

Charoen Wangananonth, the president of TTAA, said the degree of difficulty resembles the Thailand Pass registration system that Thailand uses, which requires all entrants to pre-register.

On a Facebook forum for potential Thai travellers to South Korea, most visitors are curious about the details and duration of the process.

K-ETA also requires tourists to pay 10,000 won (around B280) as a fee.

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