Tourism to top 30 million, airports surging in volume
The resilience of Thailand’s tourism industry was underscored last week as the Tourism Council of Thailand forecast arrivals would set a new record of over 30 million this year, exceeding government targets, and Airports of Thailand reported that passenger traffic in the Kingdom’s six largest airports topped 100 million in the first nine months of the year.
Two of Thailand’s main airports – Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok and Phuket International Airport on the popular resort island – were among the highest-growth airports in numbers of passengers in the entire Asia-Pacific region during the month of August. Suvarnabhumi had the third highest growth rate in Asia at 15.3 percent, following Shanghai Pudong airport in China and New Delhi Airport in India.
The figures were released as Thai aviation officials were preparing for a visit by a team from the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to assess Thai aviation safety standards. The government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has taken aggressive steps to address concerns previously raised by the FAA, and Thai aviation officials expressed confidence that the upcoming assessment would be positive.
The massive growth in air traffic and tourism over the past 15 years had strained the capacities of Thailand’s aviation regulators. The current government has increased funding and is committed to responding to any deficiencies. Passenger confidence in Thailand’s airports and airlines, however, remains high, as evidenced by the growing volume of passengers.
More than a quarter of the tourists visiting Thailand this year come from China, a significant rebound considering a drop in tourists from that important market because of a bombing in Bangkok in August in which several fatalities were Chinese visitors. The government said it expects 7 million tourists from China will visit Thailand this year, up from 4.6 million in 2014, while the Tourism Council is more optimistic, forecasting 8.1 million Chinese tourists this year.
Should Thailand achieve the arrivals forecast of the Tourism Council it would represent an increase of 22.3 percent over last year. The previous record was 26.5 million visitors in 2013. The number fell to 24.8 million in 2014, as some tourists were discouraged by political street protests in Bangkok.
Tourism accounts for roughly 10 percent of Thailand’s gross domestic product and its resilient performance has been an important pillar of growth in a year when exports, the main engine of the economy, have been performing below expectations.
Thailand Focus Week of October 26, 2015
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