CHIANG RAI, 24 January 2019: The latest tourist arrival figures presented by the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Intelligence Centre gives a sparse ballpark-like figure on the performance in 2018.
At 38 million tourist arrivals and earnings of THB2 trillion, the only surprise is the lack of detail that was routinely available in past monthly updates
There is a possible reason for the sudden drop in data quality. Usually, the country’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports releases what it calls a Tourism Situation reports on the 19th of each month. However, its last release was issued 19 December for the 11 months of 2018 stating tourist arrivals had reached 34.4 million, representing an increase of 7.53%.
It appears the ministry is relinquishing the task of compiling tourism data to the TAT’s intelligence centre, effective this February. In the meantime there is gap in data flow to complete a detailed study of 2018 results.
It raises fears that TATIC might be about to spoon-feed the tourism industry and media with a starvation diet.
Or possibly is it priming the industry for the prospect that it might have to buy full data packages in cash or kind if it wants close-up details.
As inadequate as the Ministry’s data might have been it was considerably more informative than what the TIC decided the public needed to know about one of the country’s largest contributors to GDP. It shipped out an instagram, one small graphic on one of the country’s major economic drivers.
Thailand is one of the few countries in Southeast Asia that limits publication all of its tourism statistics to the national language, which locks out international media from conveniently checking data at source.
It looks like the TIC is following that language decision established after the Ministry of Tourism and Sports took over the task of data compilation from the Tourism Authority of Thailand a decade earlier.
Offering just Thai language data reports could be viewed as counter productive for an industry built on travel bookings supplied by overseas companies and directly from travel consumers. Potential foreign investors might not be impressed.
Earlier this month, ministers and tourism officials dropped the estimated figure for 2018 arrivals into presentations with variations from 38.1 to 38.6 million. Revenue stayed constant at “around THB2 trillion. For serious researchers the spoon-feeding is as about meaningful as feeding Chinese tourists with sticky rice and mangoes earlier this week.
But it appears, 2019 has started with even less transparency on travel performance if the single page instagram from TIC is anything to go by.
Of the 38 million foreign visitors to Thailand last year, 10.6 million came from China, 4.1 million from Malaysia and 1.8 million each from South Korea and Laos.
There were 1.6 million from Japan, 1.5 million each from Russia and India 1.3 million from Singapore, and 1.1 million from Vietnam and the US.
The choice of destinations is gimmicky. They are members of the 1 million plus club.
No details of which markets declined, achieved fast growth, or have strong earning characteristics. Despite the pledges that counting heads is no longer a priority the despatch from TIC released at the weekend lacks any data on country market revenue and not a single mention of percentage growth of decline.