Thailand sets new tourism record with over 38 million arrivals


Robust and resilient best describe Thailand’s appeal as a tourist destination with the Kingdom setting a new record for visitors in 2018 at 38.2 million, officials said last week, adding that they expect that the country will break the 41 million threshold in 2019.

The results provided another bright spot for the Thai economy. Some analysts had been expecting lower numbers because of a combination of factors including global economic uncertainties and the rise of new competing destinations.

The fears proved unfounded, however. The 38.2 million tourists who visited Thailand in 2018 represented a 7.5 percent increase over the number of visitors during the previous year, including a  2.8 percent increase of tourists from China in December.

China is the leading source country for visitors to Thailand, with over 10 million people from the Middle Kingdom visiting the Thai Kingdom last year. They account for more than a quarter of all tourists to Thailand. Eight other countries, though, also sent over 1 million tourists to Thailand in 2018, including the United States.

Based on its trends analysis, the Ministry of Tourism has forecast that 41.1 million people will visit Thailand in 2019, and they will spend over $70 billion during their stays. Direct receipts from tourism contribute about 12 percent to Thailand’s gross domestic product, and indirect revenues push the figure closer to 20 percent.

“The 41 million is a projection from the current trend,” said Tourism Minister Weerasak Kowsurat. “If we actually really reach that level, I’ll have a headache.”

Thailand has been straining to handle the ever-increasing numbers of visitors. Both Suvarnabhumi International Airport and Don Muang International Airport in Bangkok are in the midst of expansions and renovations so they can serve tens of millions of more passengers than they currently serve.

Just east of the capital, U-Tapao International Airport is being developed as an aviation hub for the Eastern Economic Corridor advanced development zone, while also linking to Bangkok by light rail and providing a closer touchdown point for visitors heading to beach resorts on the Gulf of Thailand.