After the pilot project of Thailand Wellness Sandbox, Cha-am-Hua Hin is expected to provide world-class health tourism, targeting golfers and retirees who wish to flee from coldness to year-round tropical weather.
Thailand Wellness Sandbox is on the way to restoring tourism in Thailand during the COVID-19 pandemic. After the Phuket Sandbox became very successful after the first 4 months that could generate income from tourists, accommodation, food, as well as medical services in the amount of more than 4,260 million baht, health tourism is another type of tourism that the government pays attention to and considers the strength of Thailand. The way Thai health tourism would be directed is an integration with health care services such as Thai traditional medicine, meditation therapy to rejuvenate the mind, Thai spa, Thai massage, and Thai herbs. In addition, Thailand has SHA and SHA Plus public health safety standards, which are important tools that will help prevent and control the epidemic effectively and help build confidence in tourists as well.
Along with the development of tourism on the western coast under the Thailand Riviera project, 4 provinces that are connected with each other namely Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chumphon, and Ranong, and are a group of provinces with a variety of attractions and activities for nature, culture, history, sports, and community-based tourism are leading the concept to promote the economic development of the country to the foundation level, which is to spread wealth down to local businesses.
With this promising feedback from the tourists, however, during the rough time, the number of interested guests to the Cha-Am-Hua-Hin area proves the opportunity. The elderly and retired groups, including foreigners who stay for a long time, have flooded the Cha-Am-Hua Hin area from November 1 to December 2, 2021, leading to a cumulative number of tourists of 2,320 people, of which the top 3 foreign tourists were Russia, Australia, and the United Kingdom. According to Mr. Nithi Siprae, Deputy Governor for Digital Research and Development, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), “Since the middle of December 2021 onwards, the number of bookings in the area tends to improve because tourists usually flee the coldness from Europe to celebrate Christmas and New Year in Thailand. In January 2022, it is found that the number of pre-bookings has increased even more.”
Mr. Nithi continued that the number of foreign tourists entering the Cha-am-Hua Hin area is not considered very small because the number of the year 2019 before the outbreak of COVID-19 reached nearly 40 million foreign tourists entering Thailand; almost 2 million are distributed to the Cha-am-Hua Hin area, accounting for 5% of the total number. Meanwhile, in 2021 it remained at the level of 5% of foreign tourists. In 2022, the market share of foreign tourists in this area should be maintained, and we should focus on increasing the spending of tourists, especially in the health industry such as golfing and medical services for retirees.
In addition, there was a discussion with Mr. Thanet Petchsuwan, Deputy Governor for Marketing Asia and the South Pacific, TAT, to bring charter flights of AirAsia from Malaysia to land at Hua Hin Airport or Bo Fai Airport. In the beginning, there was a charter flight leading a group of Korean golfers to come to Chiang Mai. We will penetrate this group by expanding the route down to Bo Fai Airport as well because Hua Hin has the availability of golf courses that can support them.
Cha-am-Hua Hin is now carrying high expectations to bring the upturn of the national GDP. As a megatrend worldwide, health tourism is in the spotlight as people have changed their behaviors to care more for their holistic wellness, prevention of illnesses, and health treatments and therapy. With the abundance in nature of the beaches and mountains, great availability of health services, and professional and warm hospitality from the staff, the area is ready to take on this trend. It would achieve much further with the right implementation of measures and policies by the relevant parties.