A young Indian man and his family were given a huge welcoming party and granted a number of rewards at Suvarnabhumi Airport on Sunday after he became the “lucky” 28 millionth tourist to visit Thailand this year. The rewards for the family included two return air tickets to Thailand with free accommodation for five nights and a smartphone equipped with a 4G internet plan.
Good for the Indian man and his wife and kids – and obviously also good for Thailand: 28 million visitors in one year marks a new all-time record in tourist arrivals to the kingdom.
The TAT (Tourist Authority of Thailand) deputy governor said the total number of tourist arrivals for 2015 is now expected to hit 28.8 million, with an influx of 800,000 tourists expected only in the remaining two weeks of the year.
She further noted that arrival numbers during the first 10 months of the year had increased by 24.75% from last year, with 60% of visitors coming from Asia and particularly China, and 30% from Europe and America.
While on the surface of it, 28.8 million tourist arrivals doesn’t just sound brilliant but also marks also a new record, it also means that total annual arrival numbers are likely to miss the target of 30 million visitors that had been floated not only by us just a couple of months ago. So what’s gone wrong near the end of the year?
While arrival numbers had increased by as much as 53% during the first eight months of the year (fueled mainly by ever-increasing numbers of Chinese tour groups visiting Thailand), a first slowdown could be witnessed in September when arrivals increased “only” by 8.67% year-on-year.
The stats for October were even “worse”, with arrivals numbers growing by a mere 0.95% year-on-year. Most significantly, arrival numbers from East Asia, including China, grew only by 4.52%, while tourist arrivals from Europe even decreased by 7,37%. Here are the details:
The November arrival stats haven’t been published yet but, as it seems, weren’t fantastic either. So again, what’s gone wrong toward the end of the year – just as the nominal “high season” has been approaching? Why has the continued growth in arrival numbers somewhat abated since September?
We obviously haven’t got an answer – in fact, we guess there are many, political and economic factors, some of which aren’t even directly connected with Thailand. But, to identify just one factor, we’d obviously suggest that the bomb attacks in Bangkok in mid-August did ultimately have a greater impact on tourism, especially arrivals from China and East Asia, than initially speculated.
Granted, it’s busier now in Pattaya than it was a month ago or two, but that’s about it. Even those who know Pattaya for just a couple of years now would most likely argue that this year’s nominal “high season” (sic) has so far just been a slightly better low season. That is a complete disappointment.
As a result, the question remains the same as half a year ago: As tourist arrivals, on paper, continue to hit new all-time records in Thailand – where are these tourists?
UPDATE – The arrival stats for November have been published. The good news are: Yep, arrival numbers have increased again year-on-year, so tourism officials can also tout November as a success story (sic). The bad news, relative speaking, are: Other than in the first nine months of the year, tourist arrivals in November grew just by a moderate 5.13%.
Most significantly, arrival numbers from East Asia increased by a relatively meagre 10.96%, while arrivals from Europe even decreased by 9.24%. Even in the face of a 20% surge in visitors from the United States (and never mind the 42% drop just in Russian visitors) these are hardly numbers that would justify a grand Christmas party for the TAT. At most, the November stats are so-so.
Here’s a breakdown of foreign tourist arrivals last month by nationality: