Chiang Mai is retrieving tourism lost to Covid

Sales are expected to reach half of pre-pandemic levels this year

Travelers arrive at Chiang Mai Airport on Friday. (Photo: Panumet Tanraksa)

Chiang Mai expects its tourism-related income to reach 55 billion baht by the end of the year, about half the level recorded in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The prospects for the northern province have improved significantly since the middle of the year, said Suladda Sarutilavan, director of the Chiang Mai office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

Between January and June, about 4 million people, mostly Thai weekenders and vacationers, visited Chiang Mai and generated about 25 billion baht in tourism revenue, she said.

With that, the province is on track for full-year revenue of 55 billion baht, compared with 100 billion baht in 2019, she said.

In July alone, Chiang Mai welcomed 574,357 tourists, more than 700% more than a year ago when many travel restrictions were still in place. Among them were 49,301 foreigners – almost 50 times more than a year ago.

In light of the positive trend, VietJet Air resumed direct flights between Ho Chi Minh City and Chiang Mai on September 1 to meet the growing demand for travel from Vietnam to Thailand’s most famous northern destination.

The first flight was 90% full. Passengers included Vietnamese nationals and international tourists traveling from Vietnam to Chiang Mai, said Natapon Banpakan, an airline executive.

The airline will initially operate three flights a week – on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays – and is considering adding more services between Chiang Mai and Fukuoka and Osaka in Japan, he said.

The airline has observed strong demand for air travel among Japanese tourists who intend to travel to Chiang Mai directly from those cities, he said.

Ms Suladda said Chiang Mai expects to welcome up to 5 million tourists next year and will focus on improving its economic, social and environmental sustainability.

“Visitor numbers are not the only key indicator of success in our efforts to revitalize tourism here,” she said.

Thailand’s tourism-dependent economy is steadily recovering, although global inflation is seen as a key risk factor, said Warangkana Imudom, director of the Bank of Thailand’s North Office.

Since July, she said, the tourism sector seems to have picked up steam with an impressive surge in Thai and foreign visitor numbers, she said.

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