With almost 40 million foreign visitors in 2019, Thailand is a preferred destination for tourists in Asia and around the world.

White sand beaches, lush vegetation, atypical cuisine and exotic culture, the land of smiles has indeed something to make you want. To cope with the growing number of passengers at its airports, the country is investing.

Thailand welcomed a record-breaking 39 million foreign visitors in 2019 before the Covid outbreak decimated the country’s prized tourism sector. With tourist spending totaling 1.91 trillion baht, the economy benefited from the tourism boom as well.

200 million foreign arrivals in 2031?

In order to meet the forecasts of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which predicts 200 million foreign arrivals in Thailand by 2031, the country plans to invest in the expansion of four of its main international airports, as detailed by the deputy spokesperson of the government, Traisulee Taisaranakul, on February 9, 2023. 1

A privileged tourist destination

Faced with the increase in the number of foreign visitors and the growing share of international tourism in its GDP (11.4% in 2019), Thailand has been striving to develop its tourism sector for several years now.

With one of Thailand’s primary tourism goals being to become a destination of choice for international travelers, the country is rapidly developing in terms of tourism infrastructure, with many good quality hotels, restaurants and tourism activities.

The four main airport expansion projects are:

Suvarnabhumi International Airport Phase 2

The new SAT-1 terminal will increase the airport’s capacity from 45 million passengers per year to 60 million per year.

A third runway is under construction and will be completed in 2024. Once the third runway is completed, the airport will be able to receive 94 flights per hour, compared to 68 flights per hour currently.

Aéroport international Don Mueang Phase 3

On November 29, Cabinet approved the development of Phase 3. Construction will begin this year and is expected to be completed in 2029.

Once completed, Don Mueang Airport will be able to handle 40 million passengers a year, up from 30 million currently.

Expansion of Rayong U-Tapao International Airport

The expansion will take place in four phases and once completed in 2055, the airport will be able to handle 60 million passengers per year.

The first phase would be completed in 2024, after which the airport would be able to handle 15.9 million passengers per year.

Phuket International Airport Phase 2

The project aims to increase passenger capacity from 12.5 million per year to 18 million. The project includes the expansion of the international terminal and the expansion of aircraft hangars, as well as the expansion of basic infrastructure.

With 11.15 million foreign tourists, Thailand exceeded its tourism goal in 2022. Due to tight global COVID travel regulations that restricted all international travel, the number represented a significant increase from 2021, when just 428,000 tourists entered the country.

Thailand is aiming to attract 25 million international visitors in 2023, with a focus on attracting at least eight million visitors from China.


Thailand’s four major international airports being expanded to cope with return of foreign tourists (nationthailand.com)

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