In 2016, Thailand exceeded targets set for visitor numbers and revenue earning 2.52 trillion Baht (US$71 billion), an 11 percent increase over 2015 and exceeding the set target of 2.4 trillion Baht (US$68 billion). Of the total, some 1.65 trillion Baht (US$46.74 billion) was raised via spending by32.59 million international visitors, representing a 13 percent and 9 percent year-on-year increase, respectively. Meanwhile, domestic tourism revenue rose 8 percent to 866 billion Baht (US$24.53 billion) from 145 million trips (up 4 percent over 2015).
Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said, “2016 was another record year for Thailand’s tourism industry, and we hope to maintain this momentum and attract even more visitors over the next few months. I’d like to point out that the growth of revenue was larger than the growth in visitor numbers indicating that the strategy of targeting higher spending, higher quality tourists had been a great success over the past year.”
The TAT Governor made his remarks at the quarterly Thai Travel Industry Media Conference held on 30 January, 2017. The event brings leaders from top tourism-related organisations including the Tourism Council of Thailand, Association of Thai Travel Agents, Thai Hotel Association, and the Kasikorn Research Centre on the same stage to share information and coordinate strategy for the country’s tourism industry to go forward.
The panel agreed that among the factors contributing to the growth in 2016 were TAT strategies to target niche travellers; such as, sportspeople, senior travellers, and women travellers with the Women’s Journey Thailand campaign. In addition, government initiatives including tax refunds on shopping and the lifting of visa restrictions for citizens from certain countries also helped TAT to reach its targets. Tourism has also benefited from a strong global economy and increased numbers of flights coming into the kingdom, many flying direct to tourism destinations; such as, Phuket and Chiang Mai.
In 2016, the top five source tourist markets were China, Russia, Malaysia, the UK and South Korea. Also, there were significant growths in the number of visitors from North America (up 11 percent), South Asia (up 9 percent), and Europe and the Middle East, both up 8 percent. Meanwhile, ASEAN and Africa saw a 6 percent increase in visitor numbers, and Oceania saw a 3 percent rise. In 2017, Thailand is expecting to see high growth in visitor arrivals from Brazil, Russia, Argentina, Cambodia, and Saudi Arabia.
Mr. Yuthasak said both the business sector and the tourists have confidence in Thailand as a safe destination with amazing attractions and great infrastructure. As such, Thailand is now attracting not only huge numbers of visitors, but also big-scale conferences; such as, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit 2017 (26-27 April in Bangkok) and the Destination Wedding Planners Congress 2017 (2-4 May in Phuket).
For the period of January-March, 2017, Thailand is expected to earn 490 billion Baht (US$138 million) from 9.3 million international arrivals, or a year-on-year increase of 7 percent and 3 percent, respectively. Domestic tourism in the same period is expected to rise by 12 percent to 240 billion Baht (US$67 million) from 32.5 million trips taken by Thais (up 8 percent). Among the contributing factors to this target have included the Chinese New Year celebrations in eight destinations in Thailand, the healthy tourism performance especially from China during the Chinese New Year period (27 January – 5 February), and the five-day Thailand Tourism Festival (TTF) 2017 (25-29 January).