Wealthy Saudi visitors likely to jump ten-fold, say Thai travel agents


BANGKOK (The Nation/Asia News Network): The number of Saudi Arabian tourists to Thailand is expected to jump 10 times — to around 300,000 a year — thanks to the recently revived ties between the two kingdoms.

The Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) made the estimate after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha on Tuesday (Jan 24) visited Saudi Arabia at the invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed Salman, who is considered the de facto leader of the oil-rich Middle East country.

The visit came after over three decades of soured bilateral ties following the so-called Blue Diamond Affair, in which a Thai employee stole a cache of jewellery from a Saudi prince in 1989, leading to a trail of murders and suspected police corruption in Thailand.

ATTA president Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn said on Friday that if the Thai government and private sectors work closely together, his group expected the number of tourists from Saudi Arabia to grow 10 times, from 30,000 in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This is not difficult for [a market with] a population of almost 35 million. We can draw quality tourists with high purchasing power,” he said.

The number of Saudi tourists has been on a decline over the past five years — dropping from 33,517 in 2017 to 30,002 in 2019 and only 467 last year.

Meanwhile, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn said on Friday that TAT would map out its promotion plans for Saudi Arabia after bilateral relations normalised.

TAT will collaborate with major Middle Eastern airlines like Emirates, Qatar and Etihad, while also working with Arabic-speaking influencers to promote Thailand.

The tourism authority will also focus on Thai Airways International and Saudia when the air route between the two countries reopens, Yuthasak said.

Saudi Arabia’s flag carrier has announced it will resume direct flights to Thailand in May.

“The month coincides with the high season for tourists from the Middle East, who like to travel during the rainy season in Thailand,” he said.

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