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According to the latest release of Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports, a sharp resurgence in Chinese visitor arrivals in December helped Thailand close 2018 with a total of 38.27 million arrivals, generating tourism expenditure of just over two trillion Baht.
The final arrivals count released by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports showed that Chinese visitors jumped from 675,129 in November to 838,634 in December, closing the year with a total of 10,535,955, up 7.44% over 2017. Similarly, Chinese visitor expenditure also surged from 36.45 billion Baht in November to 44.42 billion Baht in December, ending the year with 580.69 billion Baht.
In total, Thailand’s international visitors were up by 7.54% over 2017, and the estimated 2.007 trillion Baht in tourism revenue was up by 9.63%. For the first time, ten countries and one SAR territory (China, Malaysia, South Korea, Lao PDR., Japan, India, Russia, USA, Singapore, Vietnam and Hong Kong SAR) generated more than one million visitor arrivals.
Announcing the results, the Minister of Tourism and Sports Mr. Weerasak Kowsurat noted that while these record-breaking figures were extremely good news, they had set the stage for Thailand to refocus its future tourism development strategy towards emerging destinations and niche markets with high spending potential.
41 million foreign visitors expected in 2019
For 2019, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports is forecasting 41.1 million foreign tourists (+ 7.5%) generating an estimated 2.21 trillion Baht in tourism revenue (+ 10%).
This is based on a forecast of 11.69 million tourists from China (+11 %), 11.31 million tourists from the ASEAN countries (+ 10%), and 6.90 million visitors from Europe (+ 2%).
The Minister noted that the growth in visitor arrivals has created a whole new set of challenges related to the overall management of the industry.
Summary of the key results in 2018:
Overview: All regions grew well except the Middle East and Oceania. Visitors from East Asia totalled 26.06 million (+9.30%), Europe 6.76 million (+3.86%), the Americas 1.60 million (+3.82%), South Asia 1.98 million (+11.82%), Oceania 922,520 (-1.74%), the Middle East 739,494 (-6.39%), and Africa 201,519 (+7.63%).
East Asian visitor arrivals comprised the biggest market share of all visitors.
A total of 26.06 million were from East Asian countries. Apart from China (10.53 million), the other top sources of arrivals were Malaysia (4.09 million), South Korea (1.79 million), Lao PDR. (1.75 million) Japan (1.65 million), Singapore (1.06 million), Vietnam (1.02 million) and Hong Kong SAR (1.01 million).
The ten ASEAN countries generated over 10.28 million arrivals, with growth by Malaysia (+17.26%), Philippines (+13.46%), Indonesia (+11.79%), Vietnam (+9.86%), Cambodia (+4.89%), Lao PDR. (+4.08%), Singapore (+3.36%), Myanmar (+0.70%). Only Brunei showed a decline of 0.18%.
European visitors were up 3.86% to 6.76 million.
Russia retained its status as the largest source market from Europe with arrivals of 1.47 million, up 9.40%. The United Kingdom was the second highest source market with a total of 987,456 followed by Germany 889,777, up 4.66%, and France 749,643, up 1.28%.
Visitors also grew from East Europe (+9.01%), Austria (+11.45%), the Netherlands (+6.25%), Italy (+5.91%), Denmark (+4.60%), Belgium (+1.81%), and Spain (+1.30%).
Arrivals from the Americas grew by 3.82% to 1.60 million. The main market, USA, increased by 6.33% to 1,123,248. Arrivals from Canada were up 6.98% to 276,543. Arrivals from Brazil and Argentina declined by 15.47% and 30.09% to 66,087 and 44,049 visitors, respectively.
Arrivals from South Asia grew by a strong 11.82% to 1.98 million.
India topped the list with arrivals up by 12.83% to 1.59 million. Other countries also showed good growth; such as, Nepal (+27.27%), Bangladesh (+6.43%), Sri Lanka (+2.36%), and Pakistan (+3.79%).
Arrivals from Oceania declined by 1.74% to 922,520 visitors.
Australian visitors declined by 1.91% to 801,637. Arrivals from New Zealand declined by 0.96% to 116,835.
Arrivals from the UAE declined by 6.52% to 128,271. Arrivals from Saudi Arabia declined by 15.50% to 28,334. However, some markets like Kuwait (+3.35%) reported good results.
Arrivals from Africa grew by 7.63% to 201,519, mainly due to arrivals from South Africa (102,713).
The Minister said that the future tourism scenario would remain highly competitive due to uncertainty in the global geopolitical and economic conditions. However, he noted that the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) was regularly monitoring the global trends to take advantages of emerging opportunities; such as, the ASEAN and Indian markets.
He said that the Cabinet had recently approved the emerging destinations tourism promotion policy with supportive measures; such as, tax deductions for tourists, tax exemptions for companies organising seminars in emerging destinations, etc.
Now that travel and tourism is well established as a major contributor to the national economy, it is important to strengthen its foundations to make it “convenient, clean, safe, unique and sustainable”, reduce income disparity, upgrade safety and security, and enhance personnel development.
He said that responsive measures like the recently announced online visa system would go a long way towards enhancing the visitor experience and ensuring a strong flow of visitor arrivals.