New Thai tourism record expected with over 32 million visitors

Thai tourism officials are confident that arrivals will surpass the 32 million mark for a new national record when the final numbers for the year are tallied, buoyed by an 11 percent increase in air traffic and a more than 9 percent rise in tourist arrivals through the first 11 months of 2016.

The Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT) said last week that Thailand will finish out 2016 with a total of 32.5 million visitors, an 8.8 percent increase over last year’s figure of 29.8 million. Council President Ittirit Kinglek said the country’s tourism revenue would total $46 billion this year, up 15.2 percent over 2015’s total of $40 billion.

Tourism is a key industry for Thailand, contributing roughly 10 percent directly to gross domestic and nearly 20 percent indirectly, while also responsible for directly employing over 2.2 million people and indirectly accounting for over 5.3 million jobs, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. Thailand ranks seventh in the world in terms of travel and tourism’s total contribution to national employment.

The strong totals at the end of the year came as something of a surprise because the number of tourists from China has dropped markedly following a crackdown on ‘zero-dollar tours’ from that country. China is now the largest source country for tourists to Thailand. The TCT estimates that 8.9 million tourists from China visited Thailand in the first 11 months of this year, an increase of 12.3 percent from last year, although after the crackdown the figure dropped by 12.1 percent for the months of October and November.

“The crackdown on illegal tours has impacted on tourist arrivals this year, but more importantly it will be short-term if the government maintains a concrete and consistent policy to handle the situation,” TCT President Ittirit said. “Although the clampdown on zero-dollar tours caused a drop in Chinese tourist arrivals, 44 percent of 600 surveyed operators agreed the measure was needed to move the industry forward and make it stable,” he added.

Meanwhile, Airports of Thailand (AoT) reported strong increases in both aircraft movements and passenger traffic in November at the six airports under its management. The AoT manages Suvarnabhumi International and Don Muang International airports in Bangkok as well as airports in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket and Hat Yai.

The six airports handled 9,768,489 passengers in November for an increase of 3 percent from the 9,476,683 it handled during the same month last year.