At least 15 groups of Thai tourists are set to visit Kashmir and Ladakh when the long Thai New Year holidays start this month.
This fits in well with Visit India Year 2023, launched by tourism minister G. Kishan Reddy to coincide with the G-20 meet. The main aim, he said, is to promote India as a 365-day destination.
And so the Indian Embassy in Thailand held an “Incredible India Tourism Meet” in Bangkok, with the specific aim of conveying this message.
With India and Thailand celebrating 75 years of diplomatic relations, newly- arrived Indian ambassador to Thailand Nagesh Singh is determined to increase Thai tourist numbers to India.
While two million Indian tourists visited Thailand, the Thai tourist numbers were 52,000, many of them focusing on the Buddhist circuit.
“This is an embarrassing number,” said Mr Singh, frankly, at the meet which was attended by leading tour operators.
The ambassador spoke about the “wealth of experiences” that Thai tourists could enjoy in India, being informed about the 40 world heritage sites, and many new and diverse trails.
The tourism meet had a post Covid-style ‘hybrid’ format, where live audiences in Bangkok listened to online presentations from India.
The Madhya Pradesh and JK tourism boards made excellent presentations.
The JK tourism board spoke of numerous trekking routes, offbeat trails and world-class golfing greens, which have not been promoted before.While everyone knew of Kashmir’s winter attractions, mention was made of the state’s varied adventure sports opportunities in summer.
One was happy to learn from IATA that “responsible tourism” was the buzzword, with a new focus on community tourism, eco-tourism and reduction of carbon footprints. After Covid, hygiene had become a big priority, they stated, which is very important to promote India as a 365-day destination.
One heard that, apart from the 43 noted tourist destinations in the country, 20 more are in the pipeline. The announcements would doubtless be made during Visit India 2023.
The Thai travel agents stated that increased air connectivity to India, with as many as 400 flights, was the all-important factor for higher tourist traffic between the two countries.
With India having removed Covid restrictions, top travel companies like Express Travels said it was a good time for Thais to visit India, which was why the April traffic to India augured well for the country.
One met Vikram Mazumdar from Delhi’s ‘Trinity Tours’ who flew specifically for this tourism meet. He stated that Thailand was a top destination for Indians, because of its visa-on-arrival system. He was now keen to promote more Indian destinations for the Thai market, he said.
Wachira Wichaiwatana, vice-president, Thai Travel Agents Association, suggested that more Indian travel agents from India should attend the major travel fairs in Bangkok, since they attracted huge numbers of travel-crazy Thai consumers.
Suthiphong Pheunphiphop, vice-president, Tourism Council of Thailand, suggested that if India introduced a visa-free policy like Japan and Taiwan, many more Thai tourists would flock to the country.
K. Karn of Rinnaya Travel Company interestingly said that many Thais have started visiting Hindu religious sites. She mentioned the temples in Tirupati, Madurai and Ramanathapuram as examples.
One was impressed by the presence of airlines like Indigo, Vistara and Go First, at the tourism meet.
Indigo has a strong presence in Thailand, with daily flights to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru, and they will be adding Bhubaneswar to their next schedule. The load factor is nearly full after Covid.
Vistara started flights to Thailand in 2019, and it’s their third international destination after Singapore and Dubai. They fly to Delhi and Mumbai, from where the Thai tourists can take connecting flights to other cities in India.
Go First has direct flights to Phuket from Bengaluru, and attracts Thais and other foreign tourists to India from the globally popular beach destination.
It was also interesting to meet some Thai social media influencers who are avid Indophiles.
Nuttakan Thongsila’s Lets Go India blog has about 20,000 followers, and she even advises and organises trips to India, especially for single women.
Bossini Nicksy is besotted with everything Indian, from food to films, and visits India regularly, all of which is lapped up by her 100,000 followers..
One certainly hopes that Visit India 2023 will give a much needed boost for Thai tourists to the country, starting this month.