The Thai Travel Agents Association (TTAA) estimates that more than 6 million Thai tourists will travel abroad this year, pushing outbound tourism expense up 8 percent to over 300 billion THB, according to the National News Bureau of Thailand (NNT).

TTAA President Charoen Wangananon stated that Thai outbound tourism in 2012 could see a growth of approximately 8 percent in comparison to 2011. However, the growth will also depend on positive factors, such as domestic political stability and lack of natural disasters.

It is estimated that around 6 million Thai tourists will travel abroad this year with a combined expense figure of around 300 billion THB, which is an increase from last year’s prediction of 5.7 million outbound tourists and 270 billion THB in expenses.

Outbound tourism in 2011 saw a continuous growth until September when the massive flood broke out, causing the sector to take a nosedive and leaving its annual growth rate at around 8 percent. Preferred destinations among Thai tourists were short-haul destinations, such as Singapore, Malaysia, Macau, Hong Kong and China.

Despite the recovery in outbound tourist figure, tour operators will not increase the prices of tour packages this year since consumers now have more options amidst the high competition in the market.

Additionally, consumer behavior has changed; more tourists now prefer traveling by themselves. This group of tourists is called the Free Independent Travelers (FITs). Currently, there is a ratio of 70 to 30 between FIT tourists and those still using tour operators’ services.

Therefore, tour operators are urged to adjust their marketing strategy to reduce risks by concentrating more on markets with no visa requirement as well as securing the ones that have cooperated well with Thailand, such as Japan, China and Taiwan./.