The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has updated the latest tourism situation, confirming that foreign tourists for this year should exceed the 27 million target but warning that tourism revenue is projected to fall short of the target by 400 billion baht.
According to TAT Governor Thapanee Kiatphaibool, Thailand welcomed 25.8 million foreign tourists from January 1 to November 11, generating 1.07 trillion baht in revenue.
It is expected that about 2 million foreign visitors will come to Thailand in December, regarded as the high season, which would bring the total past the 27 million level and generate revenue of 1.2 trillion baht. TAT's targets were set at 25-28 million foreign tourists and 1.6 trillion baht.
Thai domestic travel has surpassed the set goal, with 228 million trips made by Thai tourists (both travellers and sightseers) from January to November of this year and should reach 240 million trips by the end of this year. This exceeds the targeted goal set at 200 million trips for the year, generating 800 billion baht in revenue.
Thapanee noted that even though the target number of international tourists is likely to be achieved domestic travel has surpassed expectations, the projected income from tourism might fall short of the target.
The main reasons for this discrepancy are ongoing global economic issues and challenges in air travel returning to its previous state. This has affected long-haul travellers to Thailand, especially from European markets, which have seen less traffic than nearby markets.
The long-haul markets tend to result in higher spending as stays are generally longer.
Malaysian tourists have been the top visitors to Thailand in 2023, with as many as 4.59 million people spending an average of 26,000 baht per person per trip. Meanwhile, the number Chinese tourists, who were expected to be between 4 to 4.04 million the year, are expected to fall to around 3.4 to 3.5 million visitors.
This change in Chinese tourist numbers is due to economic issues in China and the Chinese government's focus on promoting domestic tourism, which has led to average air ticket prices in December falling by 19% to 590 yuan compared to November's 728 yuan. However, the prices for international flights remained the same, averaging 1,980 yuan. Consequently, a significant number of Chinese travellers are exploring domestic destinations, especially in Yunnan Province, with an increase of up to 900 million trips, triple the number from 2019.
To boost the average spending of tourists and enhance it in 2024, the TAT plans to propose that the duration of stay of tourists from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), some of whom already enjoy visa exemptions in Thailand be extended. TAT would like to see this extended from 30 to 90 days, similar to the extension offered to Russian tourists.
Moreover, discussions will be held with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to issue multiple-entry visas, allowing tourists from certain countries to enter and exit Thailand multiple times. This is to accommodate tourists interested in using Thailand as a base for visiting neighbouring countries.
Additionally, extending the visa exemptions for Chinese tourists, set to expire on February 29, 2024, might be considered. This measure has been effective, as data from AliPay shows that the spending of Chinese tourists in Thailand, excluding accommodation and airfare, has increased by 100%, rising from 10,000 baht per trip to 20,000 baht per trip. Malaysia has already extended visa exemptions for Chinese citizens until the end of 2024.
Efforts are also being made to promote various festivals to attract tourists and stimulate spending.
There are efforts to promote high-quality tourist groups such as health and wellness travellers, as well as those travelling by cruise ships and luxury boats.
In an attempt to meet the target in 2024, the TAT aims to implement policies to encourage tourists from neighbouring countries to stay longer and increase spending in Thailand. This is in line with the government's policy goal of achieving tourism revenue of 3.5 trillion baht, higher than TAT's previous target of 3 trillion baht. For Chinese tourists in 2024, the target is set at 8.5 million visitors.
The current government understands the challenges faced by the tourist industry and has given directions to the TAT on various measures that need to be implemented. These include kick-starting the foreign tourist market by exempting visas for several countries, managing Thailand's tourism image online, managing the overall tourism atmosphere, and stimulating secondary cities’ tourism, the TAT governor said.
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