UN says Thailand tops Asia in spending by tourists

Tourists spent more in Thailand than any other country in Asia during 2017, according to a report released last week by the United Nations World Tourism Organization, as Bangkok once again was named the world’s most visited city in 2018 by MasterCard.

Thailand reeled in over $57 billion in tourism spending in 2017, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), well ahead of Japan at $34 billion, Hong Kong at $33 billion, China at $33 billion, and Taiwan at $12 billion. The Organization said that it compiled its figures from credit card spending information and recorded cash receipts.

Globally, Thailand ranked fourth in tourism expenditure. The only countries that out-earn Thailand in terms of tourism dollars are the United States, which earned $211 billion, Spain with $68 billion, and France at $61 billion.

The figures are a validation of the strategy by tourism policy planners to attract higher-income visitors as opposed to the budget and backpacker segments of the market, although the Kingdom’s diverse tourism industry still has much to offer budget travelers.

The days ahead are also looking bright, the UNWTO said, predicting that tourism spending in Thailand would rise again next year. The Kingdom’s effective marketing campaigns and robust foreign investment in the hotel sector, especially luxury hotels, were the reasons the organization gave for its optimistic forecast.

Thailand has taken a number of measures to attract more tourists in recent months, including waiving fees for visas on arrivals for citizens from 21 countries and offering online e-visa applications before arrival to speed the immigration process at airports crowded with visitors.

The government has also added an additional re-entry permission on visas without an additional charge, making it more convenient for tourists to visit neighboring countries and then return to Thailand. Also, value-added tax refunds for tourists have been sped up.

Through the first seven months of this year, tourist arrivals were up 11 percent over the same period in 2017, and tourist spending was up 14.4 percent. Visitors from the United States increased by 5.82 percent to 656,327. Thailand is expecting about 35 million visitors this year.

Meanwhile, Bangkok was named the world’s most visited city for the third year in a row by MasterCard, the United States-based global credit card company.

The Thai capital welcomed 20.5 million visitors in 2017 and is predicted to host 9.06 percent more in 2018, according to the company’s Global Destination Cities Index. The annual list uses visitor volume and spending by vacation and business travelers at the 162 largest cities in the world.

Bangkok was followed by London, Paris, Dubai, and Singapore on the list, with New York also making the top ten.