A senior guest at Care Resort Chiang Mai.
As vaccination coverage increases and many countries move towards an endemic classification of the virus, older people may hit the road again or move to preferred retirement destinations.
According to the UK-based Silver Travel Advisor’s Industry Snapshot in April 2022, which surveyed 4,181 travelers aged 50 and over between July 2021 and March 2022, more than 20% would like to take long-haul trips, compared to 13% last July.
The elderly remain classified as a high-risk group for Covid-19, requiring extra precautions.
Dwindling purchasing power has affected spending, as 48% of respondents said their finances were healthy, up from 67% in July 2021, but 83% of potential senior travelers aim to spend more or the same when traveling. their next trips than they did before the pandemic. trips.
Foreign guests play games with staff at Care Resort Chiang Mai.
In order to tap into this potential segment, the Thai government has introduced a 10-year long-term resident visa policy, targeting “high-potential” foreign groups, including retirees who can invest and live in Thailand. said Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor Yuthasak Supasorn.
Earlier in May, the visa program received cabinet approval to cut visa fees in half to 50,000 baht from 100,000 baht.
The TAT continues to work to attract active senior tourists with higher purchasing power for longer stays, using government visa benefits, Mr Yuthasak said.
He said the lifestyle and warmer weather in Thailand are key factors helping to persuade seniors in Scandinavia and Japan to choose Thailand as their preferred destination.
Seksan Sripraiwan, director of TAT’s Tokyo office, said people aged 60 and over make up 32 percent of Japan’s total population, or some 40 million people, of whom 14 to 15 million live in Tokyo.
Japanese senior tourists have special interests that differ from other long-term travellers, Seksan said. The culture of golf plays an important role in their community and the sport is safe for older people, with many choosing to play while staying abroad.
Long-term travelers from Japan spend an average of 5,000 to 6,000 baht per day, which is similar to leisure tourists from Japan, he said.
Mr Seksan said older Japanese tourists often take long vacations of 2-3 months twice a year to enjoy local activities, such as volunteering and golf, instead of spending on luxury goods.
Senior guests cared for by a nurse at the Care Resort Chiang Mai.
Popular destinations include Bangkok, Si Racha and Chiang Mai as they may be familiar with these communities having worked there as expats many years ago.
He said the Tokyo office plans to promote tourism in the Tohoku region, which consists of six prefectures, as part of a strategy to boost the short-haul market under the “Amazing New Chapters” concept.
In March, TAT signed a letter of intent with the city of Sendai and the Tohoku Regional Tourism Organization on tourism cooperation. The marketing campaign is designed to generate two-way tourist demand and boost connectivity on the Sendai route, previously operated by Thai Airways, Mr Seksan said.
The region also has a strong base of around 270,000 senior golfers. The office plans to roll out the “Japan-Thailand Kizuna Project 2022-23”, offering charter flights to attract 2,000 senior golfers this winter.
As kizuna means link in Japanese, the campaign is jointly supported by the Japan-Thailand Friendship Association in each prefecture to communicate with senior golfers.
He said older tourists wanted to take overseas trips after waiting two years, especially golfers. They are eager to venture overseas as golf courses in Japan often need 1-2 month advance reservations due to excess demand, Seksan said.
A guest at one of Sunshine International’s three retirement residences in Hua Hin.
Seniors from Switzerland, Germany and the UK dominated property bookings in Hua Hin.
Pleasant year-round weather and a reputation as a wellness destination have boosted Hua Hin’s appeal, said Andrew Stocks, managing director and founder of Sunshine International.
Sunshine International owns and operates three retirement hotels in Hua Hin.
The company has two more properties under construction in Hua Hin, while two projects in Pattaya and Chiang Mai that were put on hold due to the outbreak are expected to resume soon, he said.
Mr Stocks said the hotel model for retirees means additional services, such as 24-hour trained nurses and trained staff to serve the elderly. Sunshine properties have received positive feedback from long-term guests because they can stay and socialize with people their own age, he said.
Stocks said occupancy over the past 12 months was 66% from nearly 95% before the pandemic, but bookings and inquiries have doubled since the country reopened on May 1.
Senior Japanese golfers are considered an important market for Thai tourism.
He said that even though the room rate had increased slightly during the pandemic, demand could increase significantly during peak season.
Peter Brown, owner and manager of Care Resort Chiang Mai, said respect for the elderly is strong in Thai culture, especially in the North, which fits the mold of a care business.
Labor costs in Thailand are lower than in developed countries, allowing companies to hire more workers to provide a better level of care to customers, who are mostly elderly people from the states. United States and United Kingdom.
Mr Brown said senior clients opt for care centers because they can offer activity, companionship and good medical check-ups, allowing clients to enjoy life despite medical issues.
He said the outbreak had crippled the industry as new customers dried up, while existing customers went home. In 2020, the company posted a loss as Thailand’s immunization progress was slow, Brown said.
He said Covid-19 had made people think twice about living in their hometowns, with some seniors choosing to travel despite tight border controls last year.
The outlook for this year should be brighter thanks to positive bookings for long-term stays at pre-pandemic prices after tensions eased, Mr Brown said.
Japanese visitors take part in activities with residents of the Ban Rai Kong Khing community in Chiang Mai.
Minimize the hassle
Earlier this year, International life The magazine unveiled its annual Global Retirement Index 2022, in which Thailand ranked 11th out of 25 destinations for the best places to retire.
The country has secured the top spot in Asia for retirement.
Even as Thailand continues to gain global recognition, there are hurdles that need to be addressed to create competitiveness, as the country was ranked ninth for retirees in 2019, Stocks said.
“The biggest flaw is health insurance for people aged 80 and over, which is hard to find. There are very few insurance companies in Thailand that provide coverage for the elderly,” a- he declared.
The price of local insurance is also higher, at around 125,000 baht per year depending on health conditions, compared to 100,000 baht per year in Europe.
Mr Stocks said older people prefer a reliable and fair price for health cover over the offer of a 10-year visa.
Mr Brown said overpriced private hospitals, which have become even more expensive during the pandemic, are a problem for foreigners in Thailand.
The government must take additional steps to help reduce or limit prices, he said.
Elderly Japanese tourists learn how to make a Thai herbal compress with locals from the Ban Rai Kong Khing community in Chiang Mai.
The lack of staff fluent in languages has caused huge difficulties for travelers looking to communicate with locals, Mr Brown said. He pointed to the Philippines, which has the advantage of English-speaking staff and a large size of labor available in the market.