Thailand Welcomes 17 Millionth Tourist in 2015

Only less than two weeks ago we reported that Thailand had just welcomed a “lucky” 16 millionth visitor this year – a young Frenchman and his girlfriend, who were given an elaborate welcome (and a couple of freebies) by tourism officials at Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Well, this “Thailand’s Luckiest Visitor” thing now seems to become a regular event, at least until the end of the low season. TAT News reported yesterday:

As part of a “Green Season” marketing strategy, every millionth visitor to the country is being welcomed at Thailand’s international aviation gateways until 30 September, 2015.

It took only 13 days for Thailand to draw another million tourists. Yesterday a young Omani tourist, along with his wife and their kid, became the 17 millionth “luckiest visitor” this year and was given an equally “warm” welcome by tourism officials at the airport. Same as the young French couple earlier this month, they won two economy-class tickets to Thailand, free accommodation for five days and and some other prizes from TAT’s partners. Hooray!


And the future for Thai tourism looks bright.

Thailand welcomed the 13 millionth visitor on 13 June, 2015, followed by the 14 millionth visitor on 21 June, the 15 millionth on 5 July, the 16 millionth on 15 July, 2015, and now the latest 17 millionth visitor on 28 July 2015.

Little surprisingly, a TAT official commented:

We are extremely happy to see visitor arrivals to Thailand going up by a million every 10-15 days on average, especially during what is supposed to be an off-season period.

Indeed, these numbers are fantastic. Preliminary figures suggest that Thailand has welcomed 15.81 million visitors between January and July 12, more than a quarter of whom were arrivals from China. This mid-year record high marks a 30.31% increase over the same period of last year and shows that the country is well on its way to achieve its official target of 28.8 million tourist arrivals projected by the TAT for 2015.
But that’s not all. In fact, the director-general of Thailand’s Fiscal Policy Office (FPO) noted yesterday

one positive factor bolstering the economy is better-than-expected growth in tourism, with 29.9 million tourists now seen visiting Thailand this year, up from an earlier estimate of 29.4 million.

29.9 million? Why so moderate? As we noted ourselves two weeks ago, Thailand might even hit the 30 million mark until the end of the year?

Granted, we’re being a bit sarcastic. But the tourism situation on the ground, at least here in Pattaya, or when you look at the empty restaurants and bars, simply doesn’t seem to confirm these numbers. Indeed, the situation is full of contradictions.
A German friend of your webmaster who runs a “laundry” in Pattaya (to tell the truth, his dozens of employees are doing the laundry for some of Pattaya’s biggest hotels and his gas bill is 600k Baht a month) told us only last night that business had never been as good during the low season as this year. When I asked him what kind of tourists were responsible for all that dirty laundry he admitted it were mostly Chinese.
Chinese, sure, there’s no shortage of them. But where have the Europeans and other Western visitors gone? While arrival numbers at Thailand’s airports for visitors from the West are still relatively stable, they don’t seem to visit Pattaya much these days.
Why? Is it “the Russians” (whose numbers are actually down by 50% or so) or negative headlines made in Pattaya on a nearly daily basis? While these are certainly all contributing factors we assume that it’s primarily weak foreign exchange rates that put Westerners off from visiting Pattaya at the moment.
As we noted only two weeks ago:

Pattaya has never attracted the wealthy but primarily low- to middle-income groups – groups that suffer most from weak exchange rates and the relative inflation.

As a result, Pattaya is no more as cheap as it used to be and hit hardest by weak exchange rates for foreign visitors. Pending the unlikely scenario of a strengthening Euro and a weakened Baht (which has decreased perceptibly only to the US dollar recently), all there is left to do for now, it seems, is wait for the coming high season.

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