Tourist arrivals and air passenger traffic both surging


Thailand’s draw as a tourism destination and an air traffic hub remain healthy and robust with foreign tourists arrivals rising 15.5 percent during the first three months of 2016 compared to the same period during the previous year, the Tourism Authority of Thailand said last week.

In addition, passenger traffic through the Kingdom’s major airports surged by 13.7 percent during the first quarter, setting a new record of 32.3 million people. The burgeoning air traffic was attributed to both the healthy tourist arrivals and the rapid growth of budget airlines, which accounted for 41.7 percent of overall passenger traffic in six airports operated by Airports of Thailand (AoT).

Tourism has been a consistent bright spot in the Thai economy and the sector accounts for 10 percent of economic output and directly or indirectly provides jobs for millions of Thais. Last year, Thailand attracted more than 29.8 million foreign tourists, an increase of over 20 percent from 2014. The year 2015 also saw an overall hotel occupancy rate of 73.4 percent, an increase of 13.6 percent over the previous year, and the best rate in decades.

At a news conference last week, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Deputy Governor Sugree Sithivanich said that from January through March, the number of visitors was 9.03 million, generating revenue of nearly $13 billion, an increase of 18 percent over the same period from a year earlier.

The TAT is forecasting 7.87 million foreign tourists will visit the Kingdom in the April-June quarter and will generate revenue of about $10.7 billion. The second quarter is Thailand’s hot season, and aside from a spike in arrivals during the mid-April Songkran, or Buddhist New Year, celebrations, traditionally draws fewer tourists than the first and last quarters of the year.

The government has forecast a record 32 million arrivals this year, up 7.1 percent from last year’s 29.8 million.

Many of those arrivals came by low-cost carriers. According to AoT, budget airlines enjoyed an increase in passenger volume of 20 percent during the first quarter of 2015, totaling 13.49 million at the six airports operated by AoT: Suvarnabhumi, Don Muang, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket and Hat Yai.

The growth in combined passenger throughput was accompanied by a 9.5 percent increase in aircraft movements (take offs and landings), which numbered 197,913. Low-cost carriers accounted for 82,972 of that total, up 8.1 percent compared to the same period last year.