Thailand hits 22m visits
BANGKOK, 17 January 2013: Thailand closed 2012 with 22 million tourist arrivals thanks mainly to a massive 60% increase in Chinese visitors.
According to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports’ report, released earlier this week, Thailand welcomed 22,303,065 international tourists, a substantial increase of 15.98% over 2011 and surpassing an initial target of 20.8 million.
On 28 December, Tourism Authority of Thailand and Thai Airways International led tourism related officials to welcome what they considered to be the 21 millionth visitor arriving at Suvarnabhumi Airport, but even that milestone was surpassed by another million visits by the time the year closed.
The remarkable rebound after almost four years of political strife and a patchy tourism performance will prompt the government to set an even higher target for 2013 casting aside considerations that the country should embrace sustainability and quality over numbers.
The TAT quickly responded to the good news by saying the country will welcome 24.5 million international tourists this year, an increase of 11.4%, generating Bt1.15 trillion, +19.1% over 2012 with a spending per person of Bt46,898.
There was no reference to the negatives that will accompany unbridled expansion such as rising incidents of tourist-related crime, overcrowding, hikes in pricing and a lack of trained staff to deliver a quality experience. There is a growing shortage of tour guides who can communicate with tourists from North Asia mainly China, Korea and Taiwan. Thailand’s hotel industry too is short of trained staff at all levels.
China was the top supplier of tourists in 2012 and that trend will continue with an anticipated 28% growth to give Thailand 3.2 million visits. Apart from China arrivals there were healthy gains from Japan (+21.58), Korea (+16.18%) and Singapore (+24.36%).
Europe and the US markets posted double digit growth, +10.12% and +13.4% respectively. However, there are clear indications that the European markets could decline in 2013.
Russia led the growth in Europe (24.97%). In the Americas, Argentina posted the highest growth rate though the number were small (+37.15%, 17,789).
The Middle East was the only region with a marginal growth of 0.58%. The region’s key supplier, Isarael and UAE only improved 3.27% and 4.2% respectively.
In December alone Thailand tallied 2,384,627 international arrivals, a significant increase of 30.37%. The high growth was partly due to the low base in 2011 when tourism declined due to fears of a flooding in the Thai capital.
All regions posted improvement, but East Asia (including ASEAN) stood out with a 52.13% growth. Malaysia, which posted declines since April, bounced back returning as the top supplier for the month and recording a 23.77% increase.
Arrivals from Europe picked up +10.58%. Other markets improved; the Americas, +15.83%; South Asia, +23.13%; Oceania, +7.40%; Middle East, +13.73% and Africa, -5.04%.
The data was collected by the Immigration Bureau from all checkpoints – air, land and sea and is preliminary data subject to review.