With three million arrivals in January and almost 3.1 million visitors in February, Thailand recorded an all-time high in tourist arrival numbers at the beginning of this year. Never had more foreign tourists visited Thailand in just two months.
While we noted that tourists from European key source markets such as the United Kingdom or Germany were apparently “becoming a minority in the urban landscape of Pattaya,” their numbers had surprisingly actually all increased year-on-year, leaving us with the same old question: Where are all these tourists going?
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) now reports that a record number of 9.03 million tourists visited the kingdom in the first three months of 2016. What is more, another 7.87 million are “anticipated” for the second quarter of the year. That’s in line with the starry-eyed optimism of Thailand’s ambitious tourism minister who set an unofficial target of 32 million tourists for 2016 earlier this year. Strange as it may seem (no, Pattaya did not have a good high season, aside from legions of Chinese package tourists), Thailand is actually fully on target.
2.95 Million Tourist Arrivals in March 2016
In fact, the international arrival numbers for March 2016 that were released by the Department of Tourism earlier this month absolutely confirmed the trend of the previous two months. Not only did the total arrival numbers hit 2.95 million in March – a new all-time record for this month of the year and again fueled mainly by Chinese arrivals -, the number of European holidaymakers also rose again by 12,70% year-on-year.
While this still doesn’t answer the same old question with regards to where all these tourists are hiding, the plain statistics are simply astonishing. Here are the details for March 2016:
NB: Strictly speaking, the data doesn’t accurately reflect the number of actual tourists, which will be slightly less. Counting all international arrivals at all Thai immigration checkpoints, including land and sea border crossings, the data also includes “visa runners” and cross-border trade visits of more than 24 hours. E.g., if an expat has to frequently exit and re-enter the kingdom to apply for a new visa or activate another entry he will be counted as a “tourist” multiple times a year, effectively inflating and confusing the data.