New figures released by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) show that Thailand’s boom in tourist visitors shows no sign of abating. In the first quarter of 2013, Thailand recorded a 15% year on year increase in arrivals which was itself a record year. The Kingdom is breaking all expectations of tourism – particularly in light of the record highs that have been seen in the value of the Thai Baht meaning that it should be more expensive than ever for overseas visitors. Yet still they come.
Visitor numbers to Thailand hit an all-time high in 2013, up almost 16% on 2012. In total 22.3 million people visited from overseas. The TAT is expecting 2013 to shatter more records and the latest statistics show that they are well on track to hit the target of 24.5 million visitors. Many officials are privately expectant of pushing through the 25 million barrier.
Tourism is one of Thailand’s key industries contributing over 6% of the country’s GDP and totalling revenues of 1.149trillion baht a year (US$38.5bn). The recent growth is all the more remarkable for the fact that not only is the baht at a record high, but economic times are difficult in the western world, which traditionally has provided high numbers of holidaymakers. The Thailand tourist industry has countered these two negative factors by seeking out new markets, embracing online marketing and the niche targeting of markets.
While there has been a decline in the ratio of visitors from the economically struggling European Union, tourist numbers from Russia and other eastern European countries is seeing sharp rises. According to statistics from Thailand’s Immigration Bureau, almost 600,000 Russians holidayed in Thailand in the first quarter of this year. That’s more than Britain and Germany combined.
However the numbers from Russia are dwarfed by the explosion in tourism catering to Chinese visitors. Over 1.1 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand from January to March this year. It is the fastest growing market and has almost limitless potential. The number of middle class Chinese looking to travel overseas is set to grow and grow and Thailand has already firmly established itself as a most favoured destination. The Chinese invasion was further fuelled by the fact that the biggest hit at the Chinese box office in 2012 was the feel good, road trip movie ‘Lost in Thailand’.
One of the reasons that Thailand’s tourism is cresting a high is that, despite the relatively expensive Thai Baht, it still offers exceptional value for money for everyone’s pocket no matter how big it may be. Whether it is budget accommodation or unconstrained luxury, Thailand’s offering is still very competitive on the international scale. In addition, there is a surfeit of areas of outstanding natural beauty and the legendary warmth and hospitality of the Thai people. When it comes to looking after visitors, Thailand has got it right.
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