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Indian big spenders catch TAT's interest

Many Indian couples host their wedding ceremonies in Thailand. Some couples enjoy an elephant-riding parade as part of the package.

Indian visitors cannot be overlooked as their spending per head in Thailand has risen to the top four, surpassing that of European and Japanese tourists so far this year.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) reported that the biggest spenders are Chinese tourists, who fork out 6,346 baht per day, followed by Singaporeans (6,289 baht), Malaysians (6,020 baht), Indians (5,952 baht) and Australians (5,842 baht).

In 2014, Indian tourists were ranked 10th in terms of spending, behind visitors from Britain, Japan, the US, South Korea and Germany.

Given their spending potential, the TAT is hoping to welcome 1.1 million Indians this year, beating their record arrivals of 1.05 million in 2013.

The Indian economy is likely to grow by 7.5% this year. It posted 7.3% growth in the first quarter, which benefited Indians' purchasing power, said Runjuan Tongrut, director of the TAT's Delhi office.

The TAT expects high-end visitors will account for 30% of total Indian tourists this year, up from 25% last year.

India's potential has prompted about 50 countries to open tourism offices in the country. China and Vietnam focus heavily on the Indian market.

The TAT said India is a high-potential market, given the high spending. Indian tourists love to eat and shop, while high-end travellers can afford premium products and services.

Thailand, which is among the first countries to reach out to Indian travellers, is a popular destination, especially for weddings.

According to the TAT, Thailand is the top wedding destination in Southeast Asia and its only global competitors in this segment are Mauritius and Sri Lanka.

At least 100 Indian couples come to Thailand for their wedding ceremonies every year and more than 10 million baht is spent at each wedding.

Last year, one rich Indian couple paid 100 million baht for their wedding in Thailand. They booked a five-star hotel as the wedding venue and reserved almost all of the rooms at three luxury hotels for guests.

Thailand has won the Best Wedding Destination Award from Travel+Leisure magazine for four years in a row.

The TAT quoted Kotak Group and Ernst & Young, which reported that the number of billionaire families in India would rise to 300,000 in the next three years from about 100,000 in 2014. They will form 1% of the total population and each of them earns about 250 million rupees (132 million baht) annually.

Middle-class Indians earn about 340,000-1.7 million rupees per year. The number of such families will reach 53.3 million and their number will be 267 million in 2015, representing 20.3% of the total population.

Between 2025 and 2026, the number of middle-class families will reach about 114 million (550 million people), accounting for 37.2% of the total population.

Ms Runjuan said Indians' purchasing power would soar and India would be attractive. But there are some obstacles for tourism marketing there because of of the attitude of Thai people towards Indians and many Indians are aware of this, she said.

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