Thailand’s tourism accelerates

BANGKOK, 22 March 2018: Thailand’s tourism continues to heat up with arrivals increasing 14.96% over the first two months of the year, January to February.

According to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports permanent secretary, Pongpanu Svetarundra, tourist arrivals reached 7,111,426, while revenue was estimated at THB384,153 million, up 17.47% year-on-year.

It’s an early warning that the year could close with arrivals peaking beyond the 36 million mark and causing considerable strain on the country’s tourism infrastructure, especially beach resorts.

In 2017, arrivals reached 35.38 million and at the present growth rate the head count will surpass 40 million in 2020 and 67.6 million by 2027.

The ministry released data for the first two months on Wednesday noting that in February alone arrivals reached 3,556,898 growing 19.33% when compared with the same month last year.

There is mounting concern that the country is running out of space in its airports to accommodate this kind of growth and that a plan to divert tourists to secondary destinations would quickly expose their lack of capacity and infrastructure to cope.

Tourist bookings are booming for the country’s beach resorts and islands, while travel to northeast and north Thailand lags far behind.

China continues to drive arrivals to Thailand with 1,200,000 in February up by a massive 51.95%, an increase fuelled by Chinese New Year travel during February.  in January the country welcomed 970,000 Chinese visitors.

Of the total 3,566,898 arrivals in February, 2,342,593 originated from East Asia, followed by Europe, the Americas, South Asia, Oceania, Middle East and Africa.

The permanent secretary highlighted South Asia that saw a growth 26.88% and in the long-run has the potential to balance off the Chinese market due to the size of the Indian outbound market.

The top 10 tourist supply markets in February were China, Malaysia, Russia, Korea, Japan, Laos, France, India, Germany and the United States, change from the January chart.

Tourism revenue in February grew by 23.78 to THB195,262.94 million.

The top 10 revenue earning markets were China, Russia, France, Malaysia, Germany, the US, UK, Korea, Japan and India.

January’s tourist arrivals topped 3,544, 528, up 10.87% while revenue reached THB 188, 891 million up 11.59%

Thailand’s Minister of Tourism and Sports, Weerasak Kowsurat, has been quoted saying he will urgently initiate carrying capacity studies and launch destination management programmes in emerging destinations to ensure they can cope with the increase in international visitors.

Carrying capacity caps have been recommended by a government-led policy committee on tourism and the environment that suggests countrywide marine parks should limit annual visits to 6 million tourists.

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation will need to take the proposal on board and create a mechanism to limit entrance if the plan gets the green light.

Introducing sustainable tourism products and turning Thailand’s travel industry to embrace sustainability has been identified as a top government priority.

But in the meantime there are no signs that Thailand is losing its appeal with international tourists and they are heading down well-worn paths that lead to overdeveloped beach resorts rather than exploring the “real Thailand.”