Outbound tourism rebound slowed by Covid-19, rising costs


The number of tourist arrivals into Thailand is slowly picking up, but tour operators are nervous about the near future outbound travel, with economic and health worries still a factor in worldwide travel. The president of the Thai Travel Agent Association said that the beginning of the rebound of outbound tourism has been kneecapped by a surge in new Covid-19 sub-variant infections in many countries that are traditionally popular holiday spots for the people of Thailand.

Outbreaks in countries like Japan and Korea nearby may limit the easing of restrictions, and delay full unfettered reopening allowing tourists to easily access the countries. Many European countries will see a delay in travellers from Thailand as backlogged and slow visa approvals are taking months to come through.

The association plans to bring together foreign embassies along with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to try to find ways to resolve the problems facing outbound tourism from Thailand.

Aside from pandemic resurgence and related delays, operation costs are rising and eliminating the possibility of travel for lower and middle-income holidaymakers. Covid-related expenses are estimated to have increased the cost of travel by 30% to 40%, with airfare rising steeply.

Trips to nearby destinations are on average 1000 to 2000 baht more expensive, while travel to Europe averaged about 5,000 to 6,000 baht more per traveller. Add to that a generally higher cost of living for most people that eats away at any money saved for a travel budget, and Thai outbound tourism is suffering.

The association reported that 90% of their 900 tour operators have reopened, but are operating on a limited scale. Many had reopened fully of hope in the latter months of last year only to be battered down by the rise of the Omicron variant and delays and reopening of countries around Asia.

Now, the market is still skittish, and many workers in the tour industry aren’t confident they will attract enough travellers to come back to work full time. While Thai people are booking international travel over the last few months, the amount is far lower than before the pandemic.

The Tour Operator Network Association is determined to set realistic pricing and educate travellers about the shift from budget travel to more moderate costs post-pandemic. They hope to see growth in outbound tourism as people use up credits accrued during the pandemic for cancelled vacations.

Outbound tourism operators are also looking to grow the short-haul outbound tourism sector in neighbouring countries like Vietnam, Laos, and Malaysia where travel can still be affordable and service interruptions would likely be less detrimental than further away destinations. The TTAA is teaming up with the Association of Domestic Travel to promote and educate these local tour possibilities with familiarization trips for industry professionals.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post  25.July 2025