Thailand will soon initiate a travel bubble with India with the main goal of attracting high-value young Indian visitors who can make a significant contribution to the recovery of the kingdom’s tourism-dependent economy.

The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) on Friday approved a proposal on the Thai-Indian Air Travel Bubble (ATB), in which extra convenience will be offered to air passengers travelling between the two countries, despite some remaining Covid-19 restrictions, said CCSA spokesman Taweesilp Visanuyothin.

Airlines and air ticket agents together with Covid-19 control authorities will play a key role in this bilateral tourism promotion campaign, he said. 

It is noted that the Phoenix-Plan for Hua Hin Airport includes proposals for an Indian budget airline to begin direct flights to Hua Hin from the sub-continent.

About 1.9 million Indian tourists came to Thailand in 2019, a 25% increase from the previous year, Taweesilp said, citing figures from the Ministry of Tourism and Sports.  They each spent seven days and 44,700 baht in Thailand on average, he said.

In 2019, this generated about 80 billion baht for Thailand’s tourism income, a 20% rise from the previous year when India had already become Thailand’s third-largest tourism market, with over 300 flights running from India to Thailand, the spokesman added.

“Indian visitors represent Thailand’s hope for the recovery of tourism,” said Somsong Sachaphimukh, vice president of both the Tourism Council of Thailand and the Indian-Thai Chamber of Commerce.

“India is a high-value tourism market given it has 600-700 million people aged 29 years and under,” she said. “The country also has a growing number of new millionaires.”

The Ministry of Tourism and Sports previously forecast 20% growth in number of Indian visitors to Thailand by 2030, while the World Bank projected that 83 million Indian tourists would be travelling overseas by that same year, up from 24 million in 2017, Ms Somsong said.

Thailand’s main rivals for Indian tourists are Dubai and Singapore, she said.  Holidaymakers account for 85% of visitors from India. They are mostly aged 25-35 years old and like to travel with groups of friends, family or as couples, she noted.

Spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said earlier the government hoped to start talks with China and Malaysia this month, in a bid to secure travel bubbles.