Thailand is focusing on medical tourism for the Middle East market at this year’s Arabian Travel Market. The country’s track record on the medical frontier has frequently won acclaim, particularly in cardiac surgery and post-operative care. Hospitals in Thailand are now forging better links with local tour operators to develop and market new products and services. The Middle East is now one of Thailand’s fastest-growing source markets, with an average yearly growth rate of nearly ten percent.
In 2006, arrivals from the Middle East were up 34 percent to more than 392,000, The United Arab emirates is the top source market from the Middle East market with 69,500 visitors, up an incredible 42 percent over 2005.
The Southeast Asian nation is also seeing significant increases in women travellers, MICE delegates and families. The Tourism Authority of Thailand is relaunching its “Amazing Thailand” campaign.
The Oriental Bangkok, part of the Mandarin Group is also hosting the World Travel Awards regional ceremony for the Asia-Pacific later this year.
Breaking Travel News caught up with Juthaporn Rerngronasa, Deputy Governor for International Marketing, Tourism Authority of Thailand:
BTN: Please tell me about your visitor numbers at the moment and your predictions for Thailand for the future.
In 2006 we had 13.8 million tourists which is an increase of 20% on 2005. We’re hoping for 14.8 million in 2007.
BTN: Can you tell me about any new hotel openings in the region?
Rerngronasa: We are experiencing a growth in the number of trendy boutique hotels, especially in places like Phuket and Bangkok. Resorts and Spas are becoming a huge trend in Thailand at the moment and because Thailand is renowned for providing impeccable service this is helping attract lots of overseas tourists.
BTN: Which travellers are you targeting with boutique hotels, resorts and spas?
Rerngronasa: Our policy is to target the higher end of the market to attract more quality tourism to the area.
BTN: Can you tell us about any new airlift or airports in the region?
Rerngronasa: We have just opened a new airport in Bangkok which can accommodate 100 airlines. We opened it last September and it’s proving to be very convenient to the traveler.
BTN: Have you made any announcements at ATM?
Rerngronasa: Our minister has announced our Visit Thailand campaign. This year is our king’s 80th birthday so this year will be filled with celebration and we want to invite as many tourists along to enjoy these celebrations as possible.
BTN: Can you tell me about the health tourism in Thailand?
Rerngronasa: At the moment in Thailand, we are seeing an increase in tourists coming to our country to undertake a medical procedure and then relaxing in our beautiful country to recover. We estimate that we have around 3 million medical tourists.
BTN: Why are you promoting Thailand here in the Middle East?
Rerngronasa: People in the Middle East have very few hospitals and they have a long wait to be seen. So they come to Thailand to be seen straight away. And not just plastic surgery, but common medial procedures like a heart bypass.
BTN: What does it mean to host the World Travel Awards later this year?
Rerngronasa: It is a great opportunity for Thailand to be the host the awards. This kind of event will raise the image of Thailand and will be good PR for the region.