THE Tourism Authority of Thailand is expecting that more visitors from the Philippines will be visiting the Land of Smiles in 2019 after a good showing in 2018, with an executive from the tourism authority said that they will be promoting secondary cities this year in order for tourists to discover more of Thailand.
“We don’t need to promote Bangkok anymore, because everyone is already familiar with Bangkok, so this year we have a campaign [promoting] secondary cities or the non-primary cities like Chiang Mai, Phuket, Pattaya, or Hua Hin,” Kajorndet Apichartrakul, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand for Singapore and the Philippines, told the media during a media event on Feb. 9 at the Travel Tour Expo in SMX, Pasay City.
He said Thailand welcomed 430,000 Filipinos in 2018, a 13% increase from the previous year
“Last year, we achieved a remarkable number of Filipino visitors to Thailand — the number hit 430,000,” he said before adding that they are expecting 15% growth in 2019.
Mr. Apichartrakul said some of the reasons why they are keen to push cities outside of Bangkok is to lessen the worsening traffic congestion in the capital city (a 2017 report by US-based transportation analytics firm Inrix, named Bangkok as the most congested country in the world) and to attract repeat tourists.
Repeat tourists from the Philippines ranges between 30% to 40%, he said.
“They are quite different in terms of the nature, the culture, and the geography,” he said of the secondary cities before noting that Filipinos who love the cooler temperatures in Baguio will love the cooler temperatures of Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai is located in the mountainous region of northern Thailand, with an average elevation of 310 meters above sea level. Its Old City area is considered a cultural and religious center as it retains vestiges of walls and moats from its past. Chiang Mai is also home to hundreds of Buddhist temples, including the 15th century Wat Chedi Luang and the 14th century Wat Phra Singh.
Meanwhile, Hua Hin, Pattaya, and Phuket are all resort destinations.
The promotion of secondary cities is shaping up to be a long-term plan for the authority as Mr. Apichartrakul said that the Thai government is trying to “facilitate transportation and traffic from Bangkok to other cities” to make it easier for travelers to enter Bangkok and move onward to other cities.
And in order to attract more tourists, the Thai tourism authority listed several festivals to entice people to explore more of the country. These include the Pattaya International Music Festival, to be held on March 14-16, which will feature performances from artists around the world, and the famous Songkran Festival which will be held from April 13 to 15 in Khao San Road in Bangkok, in Chiang Mai, and in Ayutthaya on the outskirts of Bangkok. The festival celebrates the start of the traditional Thai New Year with water fights.
There’s also the Loy Krathong or the Thai Festival of Lights, held on Nov. 13 in Chiang Mai, which celebrates the first full moon of the traditional Thai lunar calendar’s 12th month. During the festival, crowds release lotus-shaped candlelit containers to float down the river. — Z.B. Chua