Thailand’s tourism numbers at all-time high

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Don Mueang airport
Tourists at Bangkok’s Don Mueang international airport, Southeast Asia’s largest aviation hub for budget carriers

Thailand welcomed more than 29.6 million foreign visitors in 2015, a new record despite the country’s political woes, Thai Minister for Tourism and Sports Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul told reporters at a press briefing in Bangkok on January 4.

This is a significant jump from the 24.8 million foreign tourists who came in 2014 when the country was wracked by months of street protests and a military coup, and still significantly more than the 26.5 million in 2013.

The minister estimates the country could attract up to 32 million tourists in 2016, testing Thailand’s airport capacities.

The vital tourism industry remains one of the few economic bright spots in an otherwise weakening economy. Revenue from the tourism industry accounted accounts for 14.5% of Thailand’s GDP, or around $60 billion.

But Thailand wants more.

“It’s good news to see this increase in the number of visitors, but we do not want to focus solely on quantity. We want to see more quality visitors, the high spenders,” Kobkarn said.

This year, she plans to promote the country as a sporting destination through its international sport events and as the medical tourism hub of ASEAN. There will also be a focus on maritime tourism and yachting. The “Lady Journey” campaign will be continued to encourage working women to travel more and have the chance to learn about Thai food and beauty treatments.

Tourists from mainland China have been the largest group of international visitors since 2012. The total number of Chinese tourists jumped from 2.7 million in 2012 to 4.6 million last year and might reach
a whopping 8 million this year. The Chinese absorbed the sharp decline in Russian tourists by almost half last year due to Russia’s shrinking economy and the sharp devaluation of the rouble.

In fact, without the growth in visitor numbers, the Thai economy would hardly have expanded at all in 2015. Tourism contributed 2 percentage points to the 2.7 per cent GDP growth last year, leaving Thailand’s economy somehow vulnerable in case security issues return such as the August Bangkok bombing.

Thailand’s other key sectors, manufacturing cars and electronics, and agriculture, keep struggling with lower global demand and falling prices. The country also remains one of Southeast Asia’s most indebted economies, denting consumer confidence.

The government is taking steps to assist rural areas hit by drought and low prices for farm products and in September last year it unveiled a stimulus package for small- and medium-sized businesses. Such fiscal measures, together with planned large infrastructure projects and improved prospects for exports to major industrial economies, are seen lifting GDP growth in 2016 by at least 1 percentage point from 2015.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Tourists at Bangkok’s Don Mueang international airport, Southeast Asia’s largest aviation hub for budget carriers

Thailand welcomed more than 29.6 million foreign visitors in 2015, a new record despite the country’s political woes, Thai Minister for Tourism and Sports Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul told reporters at a press briefing in Bangkok on January 4.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Don Mueang airport
Tourists at Bangkok’s Don Mueang international airport, Southeast Asia’s largest aviation hub for budget carriers

Thailand welcomed more than 29.6 million foreign visitors in 2015, a new record despite the country’s political woes, Thai Minister for Tourism and Sports Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul told reporters at a press briefing in Bangkok on January 4.

This is a significant jump from the 24.8 million foreign tourists who came in 2014 when the country was wracked by months of street protests and a military coup, and still significantly more than the 26.5 million in 2013.

The minister estimates the country could attract up to 32 million tourists in 2016, testing Thailand’s airport capacities.

The vital tourism industry remains one of the few economic bright spots in an otherwise weakening economy. Revenue from the tourism industry accounted accounts for 14.5% of Thailand’s GDP, or around $60 billion.

But Thailand wants more.

“It’s good news to see this increase in the number of visitors, but we do not want to focus solely on quantity. We want to see more quality visitors, the high spenders,” Kobkarn said.

This year, she plans to promote the country as a sporting destination through its international sport events and as the medical tourism hub of ASEAN. There will also be a focus on maritime tourism and yachting. The “Lady Journey” campaign will be continued to encourage working women to travel more and have the chance to learn about Thai food and beauty treatments.

Tourists from mainland China have been the largest group of international visitors since 2012. The total number of Chinese tourists jumped from 2.7 million in 2012 to 4.6 million last year and might reach
a whopping 8 million this year. The Chinese absorbed the sharp decline in Russian tourists by almost half last year due to Russia’s shrinking economy and the sharp devaluation of the rouble.

In fact, without the growth in visitor numbers, the Thai economy would hardly have expanded at all in 2015. Tourism contributed 2 percentage points to the 2.7 per cent GDP growth last year, leaving Thailand’s economy somehow vulnerable in case security issues return such as the August Bangkok bombing.

Thailand’s other key sectors, manufacturing cars and electronics, and agriculture, keep struggling with lower global demand and falling prices. The country also remains one of Southeast Asia’s most indebted economies, denting consumer confidence.

The government is taking steps to assist rural areas hit by drought and low prices for farm products and in September last year it unveiled a stimulus package for small- and medium-sized businesses. Such fiscal measures, together with planned large infrastructure projects and improved prospects for exports to major industrial economies, are seen lifting GDP growth in 2016 by at least 1 percentage point from 2015.

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