The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and Thai tourism operators promoted Thailand in Indonesia last week, claiming to the best option at half the price of Singapore and Hong Kong and targeting 500,000 visitors this year.
TAT and 10 hotels, resorts and travel companies joined the biggest travel show in Jakarta, ASTINDO Fair, last week to market new products and attractions to one of the fastest emerging countries in the region.
The agency and operators concluded that golfing, entertainment, shopping and value for money would be the key factors drawing more Indonesians to Thailand.
Sonthaya Sitthimongkhon, chief executive officer of Royal Platinum Co, said the firm has been arranging golf tours for 16 years for players mainly from Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, China and Germany.
The company does not own any golf courses or hotels, but works with more than 100 golf clubs and resorts nationwide, creating packages ranging from three to 10 days at prices from Bt9,000-Bt100,000 per person excluding airfare.
"This year, we entered the Indonesia market by offering a variety of golf packages at reasonable prices," he said.
Indonesians should come to Thailand for golfing due to the attractive cost, greater luxury compared to other countries, easy-to-visit tourist sites, excellent shopping and relaxing Thai massage.
"During the political crisis last year, we lost 200-300 golfers. However, the future seems very bright this year as we have already received hundreds of bookings since January. Golfers from Indonesia will increase this year," he said.
Last year, the company served about 400 overseas golfers – half of the 700-800 level from years before the political chaos. It expects a return to the same peak level this year. Each golfer spends on average about Bt5,000 per day, which is slightly higher than general tourists.
Noviyanti Chandra, the representative of Jakarta-based Happy Tour, said Thailand is becoming a popular choice for Indonesians since it is 50 per cent cheaper than other destinations like Hong Kong and Singapore.
"Thailand is also popular for entertainment, shopping and the easy-going lifestyle that people can indulge in while travelling in the Kingdom," she said.
The company is also promoting other attractions such as Cartoon Network in Pattaya, Phi Phi Island in Krabi and Phang Nga province, which have been selected as locations for Hollywood movies. It is promoting cheaper packages for Thailand next month due to the low season in Indonesia.
Many packages are being prepared to lure tourists during the school break in June and the Muslim holiday in July.
"The image of Thailand is good for Indonesians especially in terms of cheap prices and good food. The number of visitors to Thailand should grow this year," she said.
Wantana Chaimanee, senior sales manager for the Royal Paradise Hotel and Spa Phuket, said Phuket is one of the popular getaways for Indonesians. The hotel decided to participate in ASTINDO for the first time this year and succeeded in getting a good response.
The hotel is losing some guests from main markets like Russia and China, but gaining more local guests as wells as Indonesians.
By offering Muslim facilities such as a Muslim food corner and prayer room, the hotel can win over regular guests from Indonesia and Malaysia while also counting on strong business from Scandinavia, Japan and South Korea.
Hotels in Phuket are reportedly running at up to 85-87 per cent full this week.
Nithee Seeprae, director of TAT’s Jakarta office, said 500,000 Indonesians visited Thailand last year, down from 600,000 in the previous year, due to the political unrest. However, the agency hopes that political stability this year would restore visitor numbers to 600,000 or more.
With Indonesia’s huge Muslim population, TAT sees potential in capturing transit passengers heading for the Middle East during the Mecca pilgrimage period. Thailand can also be a stopover for Indonesians on their way to Europe.
Airlines operate 80 flights per week between Bangkok and Jakarta. There is still room to grow.
However, TAT is facing tough competition as at least 16 national tourism organisations across Asia have established offices in Indonesia.