Thailand says Chinese surge could push foreign tourists to 30 million this year

BANGKOK (The Nation/Asia News Network): Thailand’s tourism revenue in the first five months of 2023 rose to 959 billion baht, with foreign visitors contributing nearly two-thirds, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said on Wednesday (June 7).

Tourism revenue for 2023 is on track to reach 2.38 trillion baht, or about 80% of the 3 trillion baht recorded in 2019, before Covid-19 crippled the tourism industry for nearly three years, it added.

Up to June this year, Thai tourists contributed 360 billion baht from nearly 100 million domestic trips, while foreign tourists brought income of 599 million baht from 10.56 million trips, said TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn.

In May alone, 1.97 million foreigners entered Thailand, led by visits from Malaysia, followed by China, India, South Korea, and Laos.

The national hotel occupancy rate in the first five months was 70%.

Thapanee Kiatphaiboon, TAT deputy governor for the domestic market, said Thailand has targeted at least 25 million foreign visitors in the remaining seven months of the year and is expecting a surge in the last three months.

“The biggest uncertainty is how quickly the China market could bounce back before the long holiday of October 1 [China’s National Day],” she said. “If it does, then Chinese tourists could boost foreign arrivals, and we could see up to 28-30 million visitors by year-end.”

Chinese travellers made up about 20% of all visitors to Thailand before the pandemic, the largest foreign group.

The TAT will launch new tourism campaigns in the second half of the year with a focus on subculture, including UFO exploration in Nakhon Sawan, stargazing routes, and trips for animal lovers, Thapanee said.

It will also continue to work with partners, including mall operator Central Pattana Plc which will launch the “Go Local, Love Local” campaign to promote sustainable and eco-tourism in secondary tourism provinces.

The campaign will be trialled in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Ayutthaya, Ubon Ratchathani, and Chanthaburi, with each province showcasing its unique art, culture and natural attractions via local businesses, tour guides and travel startups.

“We hope the campaign will help attract tourists to secondary provinces and reduce crowding at primary tourism provinces such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket,” she said.

Only one in 10 tourists currently visit secondary and the TAT aims to double that ratio by year-end.

The TAT is targeting 30-35 million foreign arrivals in 2024, generating 3 trillion baht in total revenue and marking a return to pre-Covid levels.

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