Tour operators selling trips to Japan are opting for wholesale packages instead of individual sales to avoid risk in the early stages of tourism recovery, which incurs additional costs, says the Thai Travel Agents Association (TTAA).

The number of outbound Thai tourists is expected to remain at 1 million this year, with more trips expected in the final quarter.

Wholesalers who assign packages to small tour operators still have plenty of spare credit with airlines and can offer services using a pricing strategy, said Chotechuang Soorangura, vice president of TTAA.

There are 45 to 46 wholesalers in the market, he said.

Mr Chotechuang said most outbound retail operators are offering wholesale packages as they have not fully recovered from the financial impact of the pandemic and still do not have enough manpower to manage the services on their own.

Current tourism demand may be insufficient as tour operators have to launch many destinations to cover costs, he said.

As Japan plans to resume inbound tourism on June 10, a number of local operators have started publishing their packages online, which are mostly similar trips ranging in cost from 25,888 baht to 60,000 baht. , excluding RT-PCR tests and visa fees.

Mr. Chotechuang, also managing director of NS Travel and Tours, said operating costs for packages in Japan had jumped 30-35% from 2019, with additional expenses such as tourist visas, RT-PCR tests , higher costs for accommodation, tour buses, fuel and food.

“Outbound tour operators could continue to struggle for a year despite the reopening of borders, as the third quarter is not the tourist season,” he said.

If Japan eases rules for independent tourists by September-October and daily arrivals increase to 50,000 tourists from 20,000, then 50% of Thailand’s projected one million outbound market is expected to flow to Japan, in particularly to Tokyo and Osaka, Mr. Chotechuang said.

He said other favorite destinations for Thais, including South Korea, may lift restrictions for individual tourists, but demand is not as strong.

Apart from Japan and South Korea, other popular short-haul destinations include Singapore and Vietnam, while preferred long-haul destinations include the Netherlands, Switzerland, UK, Germany and France .

Mr Chotechuang said travel to Europe, where prices have also risen by 30%, faces a delayed visa process. Tourists need to prepare 2-3 months in advance, while some groups had to cancel trips.

Tour operators are also hoping to get bookings from corporate clients next year, as they tend to avoid high prices during peak season, he said.