The final arrivals count released by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports showed that Chinese visitors jumped from 675,129 in November to 838,634 in December, closing the year with a total of 10,535,955, up 7.44% over 2017.
Similarly, Chinese visitor expenditure also surged from B36.45 billion in November to B44.42bn in December, ending the year with B580.69bn.
In total, Thailand’s international visitors were up by 7.54% over 2017, and the estimated B2.007trn in tourism revenue was up by 9.63%.
For the first time, 10 countries and one SAR territory (China, Malaysia, South Korea, Lao PDR., Japan, India, Russia, USA, Singapore, Vietnam and Hong Kong SAR) generated more than 1 million visitor arrivals.
Summary of the key results in 2018:
Overview: All regions grew well except the Middle East and Oceania. Visitors from East Asia totalled 26.06mn (+9.30%), Europe 6.76mn (+3.86%), the Americas 1.60mn (+3.82%), South Asia 1.98mn (+11.82%), Oceania 922,520 (-1.74%), the Middle East 739,494 (-6.39%), and Africa 201,519 (+7.63%).
East Asia: East Asian visitor arrivals comprised the biggest market share of all visitors. A total of 26.06mn were from East Asian countries. Apart from China (10.53mn), the other top sources of arrivals were Malaysia (4.09mn), South Korea (1.79mn), Lao PDR. (1.75mn) Japan (1.65mn), Singapore (1.06mn), Vietnam (1.02mn) and Hong Kong SAR (1.01mn).
The 10 ASEAN countries generated over 10.28mn arrivals, with growth by Malaysia (+17.26%), Philippines (+13.46%), Indonesia (+11.79%), Vietnam (+9.86%), Cambodia (+4.89%), Lao PDR. (+4.08%), Singapore (+3.36%), Myanmar (+0.70%). Only Brunei showed a decline of 0.18%.
Europe: European visitors were up 3.86% to 6.76mn. Russia retained its status as the largest source market from Europe with arrivals of 1.47mn, up 9.40%. The United Kingdom was the second highest source market with a total of 987,456 followed by Germany 889,777, up 4.66%, and France 749,643, up 1.28%.
Visitors also grew from East Europe (+9.01%), Austria (+11.45%), the Netherlands (+6.25%), Italy (+5.91%), Denmark (+4.60%), Belgium (+1.81%), and Spain (+1.30%).
The Americas: Arrivals from the Americas grew by 3.82% to 1.60mn. The main market, the US, increased by 6.33% to 1,123,248. Arrivals from Canada were up 6.98% to 276,543. Arrivals from Brazil and Argentina declined by 15.47% and 30.09% to 66,087 and 44,049 visitors, respectively.
South Asia: Arrivals from South Asia grew by a strong 11.82% to 1.98mn. India topped the list with arrivals up by 12.83% to 1.59mn. Other countries also showed good growth; such as, Nepal (+27.27%), Bangladesh (+6.43%), Sri Lanka (+2.36%), and Pakistan (+3.79%).
Oceania: Arrivals from Oceania declined by 1.74% to 922,520 visitors. Australian visitors declined by 1.91% to 801,637. Arrivals from New Zealand declined by 0.96% to 116,835.
Middle East: Arrivals from the UAE declined by 6.52% to 128,271. Arrivals from Saudi Arabia declined by 15.50% to 28,334. However, some markets like Kuwait (+3.35%) reported good results.
Africa: Arrivals from Africa grew by 7.63% to 201,519, mainly due to arrivals from South Africa (102,713).
Announcing the results, the Minister of Tourism and Sports Weerasak Kowsurat noted that while these record-breaking figures were extremely good news, they had set the stage for Thailand to refocus its future tourism development strategy towards emerging destinations and niche markets with high spending potential.
Now that travel and tourism is well established as a major contributor to the national economy, it is important to strengthen its foundations to make it “convenient, clean, safe, unique and sustainable”, reduce income disparity, upgrade safety and security, and enhance personnel development.
The Minister noted that the growth in visitor arrivals has created a whole new set of challenges related to the overall management of the industry.
He said that the Cabinet had recently approved the emerging destinations tourism promotion policy with supportive measures; such as, tax deductions for tourists, tax exemptions for companies organising seminars in emerging destinations, and so on.
Minister Weerasak said that the future tourism scenario would remain highly competitive due to uncertainty in the global geopolitical and economic conditions. However, he noted that the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) was regularly monitoring the global trends to take advantages of emerging opportunities; such as, the ASEAN and Indian markets.
He said that responsive measures like the recently announced online visa system would go a long way towards enhancing the visitor experience and ensuring a strong flow of visitor arrivals.
For 2019, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports is forecasting 41.1mon foreign tourists (+ 7.5%) generating an estimated B2.21trn in tourism revenue (+ 10%). This is based on a forecast of 11.69mn tourists from China (+11 %), 11.31mn tourists from the Asean countries (+ 10%), and 6.90mn visitors from Europe (+ 2%).