Thailand seeks to boost tourism numbers after poor year 2014

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pattaya-beachCommonly referred to as “The Land of Smiles”, Thailand doesn’t have much too smile about last year’s tourism figures. For the first time since 2009, international arrivals in the country dropped, and with them tourism receipts, despite numerous efforts made by the Tourism Authority of Thailand to reverse the trend throughout 2014.

Ranking ten on the list of the world’s most visited countries, some 24.7 million tourists arrived in Thailand in 2014, which is a decline of 6.66 per cent compared to the previous year, and a 5.8 per cent reduction in revenue from tourism to around $35.8 billion.

The visitor number was significantly below the initial target for 2014 of up to 28mn arrivals, with tour operators and tourism officials blaming the political instability in the country and martial law still being in effect as the main reason that potential visitors gave the country a wide berth.

However, there were more contributing factors to the lousy tourism year. There was a drop in Chinese tourists to Thailand after Beijing introduced stronger regulations on outbound travel for Chinese citizens at the end of 2013.

Another factor was the tanking Russian ruble and spending cuts by Russians on overseas holiday travel which was felt hard in places such as Pattaya and Phuket, preferred holiday destinations for Russians. As a result of the ruble crisis, hotel reservations by Russians dropped by 70 per cent in Pattaya alone, the Thai Hotel Association said.

As of late, there has also been a decline in the number of European tourists as the value of the euro against the Thai baht kept falling due to the prolonged economic crisis in the Eurozone. The number of Middle East tourists to Thailand dropped by 5.91 per cent in 2014 to 593,000 visitors.

However, it seems that the curve has bottomed out towards the end of last year ahead of the high season, which started in December. In that month, the number of foreign travelers reached 2,84 million visits, an increase of 11.76 per cent over December 2013, triggering hope in tour operators and tourism businesses that the trend will continue in 2015 and the sector could eventually recover.It also seems that the medical tourism sector is back to normal and growing.

But so far, the foreign visitor arrival target for 2015 set by the tourism authority remains at 25.5 million, a revision from the original target of up to 29 million. There have been a few inventive measures by the Tourism Authority of Thailand to lure tourists back the country. One was to promote “the experience of martial law” as some sort of tourist attraction under the slogan “24 Hours Enjoy Thailand”. Another proposal was to equip foreign tourists with identification wristbands to keep them safe in case they get lost. The latest step was the “Discover Thainess” campaign that kicked off in early January with a huge street parade and cultural performances in Bangkok, which were well received mostly by locals, but instead of broad international media attention caused not much more than a remarkable traffic jam in the capital.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Commonly referred to as “The Land of Smiles”, Thailand doesn’t have much too smile about last year’s tourism figures. For the first time since 2009, international arrivals in the country dropped, and with them tourism receipts, despite numerous efforts made by the Tourism Authority of Thailand to reverse the trend throughout 2014.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

pattaya-beachCommonly referred to as “The Land of Smiles”, Thailand doesn’t have much too smile about last year’s tourism figures. For the first time since 2009, international arrivals in the country dropped, and with them tourism receipts, despite numerous efforts made by the Tourism Authority of Thailand to reverse the trend throughout 2014.

Ranking ten on the list of the world’s most visited countries, some 24.7 million tourists arrived in Thailand in 2014, which is a decline of 6.66 per cent compared to the previous year, and a 5.8 per cent reduction in revenue from tourism to around $35.8 billion.

The visitor number was significantly below the initial target for 2014 of up to 28mn arrivals, with tour operators and tourism officials blaming the political instability in the country and martial law still being in effect as the main reason that potential visitors gave the country a wide berth.

However, there were more contributing factors to the lousy tourism year. There was a drop in Chinese tourists to Thailand after Beijing introduced stronger regulations on outbound travel for Chinese citizens at the end of 2013.

Another factor was the tanking Russian ruble and spending cuts by Russians on overseas holiday travel which was felt hard in places such as Pattaya and Phuket, preferred holiday destinations for Russians. As a result of the ruble crisis, hotel reservations by Russians dropped by 70 per cent in Pattaya alone, the Thai Hotel Association said.

As of late, there has also been a decline in the number of European tourists as the value of the euro against the Thai baht kept falling due to the prolonged economic crisis in the Eurozone. The number of Middle East tourists to Thailand dropped by 5.91 per cent in 2014 to 593,000 visitors.

However, it seems that the curve has bottomed out towards the end of last year ahead of the high season, which started in December. In that month, the number of foreign travelers reached 2,84 million visits, an increase of 11.76 per cent over December 2013, triggering hope in tour operators and tourism businesses that the trend will continue in 2015 and the sector could eventually recover.It also seems that the medical tourism sector is back to normal and growing.

But so far, the foreign visitor arrival target for 2015 set by the tourism authority remains at 25.5 million, a revision from the original target of up to 29 million. There have been a few inventive measures by the Tourism Authority of Thailand to lure tourists back the country. One was to promote “the experience of martial law” as some sort of tourist attraction under the slogan “24 Hours Enjoy Thailand”. Another proposal was to equip foreign tourists with identification wristbands to keep them safe in case they get lost. The latest step was the “Discover Thainess” campaign that kicked off in early January with a huge street parade and cultural performances in Bangkok, which were well received mostly by locals, but instead of broad international media attention caused not much more than a remarkable traffic jam in the capital.

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