TAT wants to establish Thailand as first country to welcome crypto-currency holders

19 Feb 2021

By targeting Japanese tourists in the initial phase, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) wants to establish Thailand as the first country to welcome crypto-currency holders. 

Though this agency downgraded its target for foreign tourist arrivals this year, it sees tourism as emphasizing quality and creativity during the post-pandemic era, leading to its plan to add new high-spending segments. 

The TAT determined after a discussion with the Technology Promotion Association (Thailand-Japan) that it wants to attract holders of cryptocurrency, a market that has grown significantly over the past few years.

11 per cent of Japanese own cryptocurrencies, higher than the global average of 7 per cent, followed by Germany and the US at 9 per cent, according to Dalia Research in 2018. 

TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said, "If we can prepare the country for the cryptocurrency market, it will help attract more opportunities from high-spending tourists, especially the young and wealthy generations," 

A feasibility study on the implementation of the digital currency at tourism destinations is now being conducted out by TAT. 

In its long-term plan, the agency plans to talk with the Bank of Thailand and tourism operators, such as hotels, about preparing for new tourism practices.

Mr Yuthasak said that the use of cryptocurrency must comply with central bank regulations and measures must be designed to deter money laundering. 

"Even Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and a crypto influencer, might be interested in visiting Thailand," he said. 

In terms of this year's tourism goal, he said that the agency has agreed to drop its foreign arrival target from 10 million to 8 million visitors. 

Tourism receipts from foreign arrivals are estimated at 428 billion baht, down from the previous 500 billion goals, with average per-person spending of 53,500 baht.

Even though uncontrollable factors are facing the industry, such as outbound restrictions in some countries, local sentiment towards foreign visitors, slow roll-outs of vaccines, and travel restrictions, the TAT still sets higher goals than other government organizations. 

Thailand will welcome only 3.2 million foreign arrivals on Tuesday, the National Economic and Social Development Council has estimated. 

After April, TAT plans to start a large sales campaign to bring foreign visitors back during the third quarter.

Its overall revenue target, however, remains the same at 1.2 trillion baht as the TAT expects to boost domestic revenue to 816 billion baht, up from 700 billion previously estimated, with annual spending of 4,000 baht per person. 

It is forecast that the number of domestic trips to reach 150 million, up from 120 million before the new outbreak. 

Mr Yuthasak said the industry has already bottomed out in January and is starting to see a recovery in a V-shaped way. 

Local airlines are expected to increase flight frequencies in March, and during the Songkran festival, tourism activities will resume, he said.