Outbound tourism from Thailand to Norway is booming. Thai tourists typically visit the western fjords in addition to Oslo and Bergen and also North Cape where H.M. King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) engraved his monogram on a boulder in 1907. King Chulalongkorn’s visit to Norway in 1907 has been described in a series of letters to his daughter Princess Nibha Nobhadol and is included in the curriculum for students in Thailand.
Outbound tourism from Thailand has increased to six million due to continuous competitive promotion campaigns from destination marketing companies, tour companies, airlines, hotels, banks and credit card issuers.
The traditional peak season for Thai tourists to Norway is April to July, but we have seen a shift whereby the volume of tourists for this period has gone from 60% in 2015 to less than 40% in 2018 with autumn and winter now accounting for more than 40% of the outbound tourism volume to Norway. The main reason for this shift is mainly Aurora hunting, but also other winter activities are becoming popular.
Thai tourists are avid shoppers. Global Blue Norway accounts for roughly 95% of all tourism VAT refunds in Norway. In 2016, Thailand is ranked 5 (after China, USA, UK and Germany) of all countries worldwide in VAT refunds through Global Blue Norway, up from 7th place. 61% of transactions are taking place in Oslo and these generate 86% of the total value. Thai shoppers typically go for expensive items like brand name watches and handbags.
A move in the Thai demographic structure towards an ageing society will benefit the inbound tourism industry in Scandinavia as travellers in this category have time and money for travelling. Convenience in travelling, quality of tours, good service and well-developed infrastructure are important factors for this group.
Individual travel have become more popular among Thai tourists. 80% of Thais travelling abroad were individual travellers with a preference for short-haul destination (within Asia). Japan has recently opened up for visa free travel for Thai citizens, and Japan is now the top selling destination. Only 10% of outbound travellers went to Europe in 2017, but things are changing. Destinations in Northern Europe are becoming more popular, especially during the winter season. The young generation tend to find more unique and adventurous places to visit. They are looking beyond the major tourist areas to less known places, being more interested in local lifestyle. Tourists in middle to upper classes are the highest spenders when travelling abroad.
Bleisure travel, a combination between “business” and “leisure” is an increasingly popular way to travel. The inclusion of business meetings in motivational travel programmes aboard are expected to increase continuously. Unique and relaxing tour programmes for shorter stays are favoured among bleisure travellers.
Over 31 million Thais between 6 and 60 use internet to access social media, blogs/virtual communities and video sharing websites in order to search for travel information and share travel experiences through a variety of online channels. Social media plays an important role in tourism, especially while search for information in order to make decision about destinations. Facebook and other social media, travel blogs, word of mouth, travel channels, and travel magazines are the main inspirations for Thai travellers.
Like other Asia travellers, Thai love photo opportunities and selfies. They tend not to be too adventurous but rather see nature from comfortable surroundings, much like Japanese travellers. Food-wise, Thais prefer Asian food, especially for breakfast. Hotels catering to Asian tourists are well advised to put some Asian dishes on their menus.
Every year, in January, Visit Norway organises a B2B workshop in Bangkok, which we organise. This is a unique opportunity to meet the local travel industry and to introduce new and exciting products for the coming season to the Thai market. The 2019 workshop took place on 25 January 2019 with close to 30 exhibitors and more than 100 participants from the Thai tourism industry. The 2020 workshop has yet to be announced but it is expected to be the third or fourth Friday in January 2020.