Thailand Tourism is Reviving as International Arrivals Increase
Thailand welcomed 11.15 million foreign visitors in 2022, exceeding the government’s target for the year and implying that the country’s tourism sector will continue to recover this year, according to the country’s tourism ministry.
This was still far short of the 40 million or so international arrivals that the country had prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019. However, this is a significant increase from the 428,000 visitors the country received in 2021, when access was complicated by a slew of pandemic-related travel restrictions.
According to ministry data, the top three source markets for the country in 2022 will be Malaysia, India, and Singapore.
This is obviously good news for Thailand, whose economy is the second largest in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), but which is also unusually reliant on tourism. While the country managed to contain COVID-19 with relative success in 2020, the shutdowns and collapse in international travel brought international tourism to a halt. This contributed to the country experiencing the second-worst recession of the ten ASEAN nations that year, with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) reporting that its economy contracted by 6.1 percent.
Thai tourism officials are now aiming for 25 million international visitors by 2023, a target that will be greatly aided by the resumption of outbound tourism from China following Beijing’s earlier this month decision to abandon “zero COVID” and its associated travel restrictions. Thailand received a record 11.5 million visitors in 2019, but China’s protracted flirtation with its wacky “zero COVID” policy has slowed Thailand’s expected recovery.
Indeed, the return of Chinese outbound tourism has been warmly received throughout the region. Reuters reported this week that Filipinos dressed in traditional attire “played bamboo marimbas and handed out necklaces and gifts” to the first Chinese visitors to return to the country since the pandemic. Indonesian authorities put on a similar show in Denpasar, Bali, where the first direct flight from China in three years landed to an honor guard of traditionally dressed Balinese hostesses and lion dances to commemorate the Lunar New Year.
Meanwhile, at Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Tourism, Arts, and Culture Minister Tiong King Sing personally greeted Chinese visitors arriving from Fuzhou with Lunar New Year souvenirs this weekend.
In 2019, the Philippines and Indonesia welcomed 1.7 million and 2 million Chinese visitors, respectively. However, as in Thailand, this fell dramatically last year, with only 39,627 visitors in the Philippines and around 100,000 in Indonesia. Malaysia experienced a similar decline, but has set an ambitious goal of attracting 5 million Chinese tourists this year, a 60% increase over the 3.1 million who visited in 2019.
In a related development, Singapore’s government announced this week that it is on track to fully recover its tourism sector by 2024. According to tourism officials, the city-state received 6.3 million visitors last year, down from 19.1 million in 2019, but slightly more than the government’s forecast of 4-6 million.
Singapore, like its neighbors, will benefit from the return of Chinese outbound travel. In 2019, the country welcomed 3.6 million visitors from China, the country’s single largest source of foreign arrivals.
Source : thediplomat