BANGKOK, 29 April 2019: Thailand clocked a marginal increase of 1.76% in visitor arrivals for the first quarter of 2019 to register 10.79 million visits, while the estimated visitor spend increased by a slim margin of 0.38%.
Ministry of Tourism and Sports’ tourism statistics for the first quarter of this year, posted on its website 25 April, indicated the country welcomed 10,795,248 visitors.
Following reasonably strong performances in January and February, March was off the pace with 3,473,088 visits, representing a decline of 0.69%.
Tourism spending in March reached THB184,450.52 million down 1.30% on the same month in 2018.
Bloomberg at the weekend thought the March performance deserved a comment: “Thailand’s tourism industry is facing one of its biggest challenges in recent years as newly released data shows a significant decline in both the number of tourist arrivals and spending.”
First Quarter 2019 highlights
Over the first three months of the year, estimated revenue earned from tourism reached THB573,798.20 million, up by a very marginal 0.38%.
The first quarter performance showed visits from China were off the pace. While it continues to be the top source market with 3,119,825 visits, it registered a 1.72 decline and this continues a negative trend that started in August last year, shortly after a fatal boat accident in Phuket.
Malaysia the second largest supply market is a considerable distance off China’s trip volume, but it delivered 915,697 visits, reporting a healthy 8.33% improvement.
Third place Russia with 615,548 visits is another of the top five markets that showed a decline during the first quarter of 0.56%.
But among the top five supply markets, Korea in fourth place returned a 7.11% increase with 537,088 visits and in fifth place, Japan delivered 474,677 visits up 9.57%.
In sixth place, India delivered an outstanding performance with 450,224 visits up 24.98% during the first quarter. In March alone trips to Thailand expanded by a substantial 34.66%
Thailand continues to rely heavily on Asia’s outbound markets with 6,932,426 visits, but the growth rate has slowed to just 2.17% pulled down by a sluggish China market.
Beyond Asia, other regions returned indifferent performances. Europe supplied 2,439,791 visits down 2.34%, while the Middle East slumped 14.60%, but no surprises there as the market has been in the doldrums for the last five years. The Americas delivering 472,587 visits increased by a slim 0.59%.
The bright spot continued to be South Asia with an increase of 20.73% in visits during the first quarter driven on the back of a 24.98% growth in India and 25.90% in Sri Lanka. Travel from the latter is likely to drop during the second quarter following the Easter bomb blasts that will dampen the appetite for outbound travel for the immediate future.
Takeaways from the first quarter focus on Thailand’s need to address the slowdown in the China market by dealing with the core issues of safety.
The year’s target of 40 million visits is still within reach, but it will require stronger results in the second and third quarters that are traditionally described as the low season months if the forecast is to stay on track.
Extending the free visa-on-arrival to October will help to boost travel from the 21 nations on the VoA list, but China and India are the priorities for this incentive scheme.
While Thailand says the revenue performance is a better benchmark than visitor arrivals it is based on educated guesses and until the Ministry explains its methodology for the revenue side of the statistics chart it is at best a ballpark figure hardly worthy of serious consideration.
Visitor arrival data is based on a head count of foreigners passing through international checkpoints confirmed by the Immigration Bureau and based mainly on the TM6 arrivals cards.