Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sport Permanent Secretary, Pongpanu Svetarundra, reported earlier this week that tourist arrivals, January to September, reached 28,541,887, up 8.71%.
During the same period in 2017, the country registered 26,254,806 arrivals.
Looking forward, if the final quarter performs anything like last year it will weigh in with approximately 9 million more visits, which will push the year-end total across the 37.5mn-target threshold.
Despite predictions of gloom and doom, the China market, January to September, recorded 8,376,049 trips, an increase of 13.38% when compared with 7,394,101 trips during the same period in 2017.
The scorecard presentation challenges claims by the country’s travel industry that pointed to a major drop in bookings from China that could persist through to Chinese New Year 2019.
The latest Tourism Ministry data confirmed China remained the top source market clocking 8.37mn trips for the nine months followed by Malaysia with 2.87mn.
Korea, in third place, supplied 1.33mn, Laos 1.29mn and Japan with 1.23mn was named the fifth largest supply market so far this year.
Based on estimated revenue generated from each market, China topped the five leading markets with B460 billion followed by Russia with B80bn, Malaysia B75bn, Korea B60bn and the US with B60bn.
Total revenue for the nine months was B1,490,458.01, an increase of 10.95% over the same period of last year, the ministry reported.
September’s performance closed with 2,655,563 tourists arrivals up by a narrow 2.13% year-on-year.
Phuket International Airport in particular saw 307,574 international arrivals and 323,224 international departures during the month.
However, the month’s performance did reflect a massive drop in Chinese visits, down by 14.89% to register 648,000 trips.
This could be what concerns hoteliers especially at popular beach resorts. If September’s decline in the Chinese market is replicated in October through to December, total arrivals could fall short of the 10mn target.
September was the first month since the Phoenix boat disaster in Phuket in July to record a double-digit decline in visits from China.
September’s performance also indicated a 3.66% decline in trips from Singapore, an important top-10 market for Thailand.
In contrast, three markets in the month’s top-10 list, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Vietnam, recorded double-digit growth in tourist arrivals.
The top 10 tourist arrivals markets comprised of: China (-14.89%); Malaysia (+40.13%); Laos (+9.49%); Japan (+6.57%); Korea (+0.74%); India (+5.52%); Cambodia (+6.88%); Hong Kong (+20.69%); Singapore (-3.66%) and Vietnam (+11.77%).
Of the 2,655,562 foreign visitors logged in September, 1,948,414 trips were generated in East Asian markets, followed by Europe, South Asia, the Middle East, Oceania and Africa, respectively.
September’s tourism revenue reached B140,140.11, an increase of 2.92% year-on-year.
The top revenue markets were: China; Malaysia; Japan; Korea; Australia; USA; Laos; India; UK and Cambodia.
Of all the 10 revenue markets just two recorded declines in September. China generated B36.8bn in revenue, down 11.49% and Australia B6.31bn, down 3.04%.
A Ctrip report on travel bookings for the Golden Week holiday, on Oct 1-7, that saw millions of Chinese travellers visiting destinations in Asia indicated Thailand had emerged as the top destination, ahead of Japan.
But on the ground, confidence is down particularly at beach resorts such as Phuket, the scene of the Phoenix tragedy, which killed 47 Chinese tourists.
Hoteliers contacted by TTR Weekly said they were concerned bookings would continue to decline and that a full recovery could take months, possibly until Chinese New Year in 2019.
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Don Ross is the Managing Editor of TTR Weekly. Email email@example.com