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Mon 1 Jan 2007 04:00 AM

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Tourism Authority of Thailand commits to region

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has signalled its commitment to the Middle East’s booming outbound market by unveiling an Arabic-language web site and making plans to open a dedicated Middle East office.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has signalled its commitment to the Middle East’s booming outbound market by unveiling an Arabic-language web site and making plans to open a dedicated Middle East office.

Increased activity with the trade is also on the agenda, with more exhibition presence and at least 12 fam trips scheduled for the region’s agents and operators this year, compared to seven in 2006.

These measures are a response to the phenomenal growth in Middle East traffic to Thailand last year, according to TAT’s Middle East representative, Shaikh Rahmatullah.

“Arrivals from the 12 Middle East countries, including the six GCC states, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iran, Iraq and Yemen, increased 52% for the first seven months in 2006 (compared to the same period last year),” he explained. “Arrivals from the UAE for this period grew 58% year-on-year, but the outbound leader was Saudi Arabia with an 85% increase in visitors to Thailand,” he said.

Anecdotal evidence reveals KSA nationals travel via Malaysia, Singapore or the UAE to Thailand, as no direct flights are operated to date, however, both Thai Airways and Saudi Arabian Airlines are considering starting a service, possibly this year. Iran’s business to Thailand is also booming, according to Rahmatullah, driven by the direct daily service operated from Tehran to Bangkok by Mahan Air.

Rahmatullah said the TAT would focus its trade training efforts on Saudi Arabia, Iran and also Bahrain, where for the first time, it will take part in the Bahrain International Travel Expo (BITE) from May 8-10, following Arabian Travel Market (ATM).

The organisation is also expected to increase its stand size at ATM to 250m² compared to 200m² last year, allowing more medical tourism companies to participate in the event.

The Middle East is currently under the jurisdiction of the London TAT office, which also looks after Europe and South Africa, but Rahmatullah said a Middle East branch was on the cards.

TAT’s Arabic-language web site (
www.thaitourismarabia.org

), launched last month, features similar information as the mother site, but includes extra content relevant to the local market.

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