International tourist arrivals in Thailand are expected to reach a record high in 2016, Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul declared to news agency Reuters last week, after missing by only 200,000 the historical mark of 30 million foreigners last year. Total arrivals reached in 2015 some 29.8 million, slightly more than earlier forecasts.
Tourism accounts for about 10 percent of Thailand’s GDP and is one of the few bright spots for an economy that under performed most of its peers in Southeast Asia.
Tourism boomed even after the deadliest attack on Thai soil in peacetime at a shrine in central Bangkok shook the country and as a high profile trial for the murder of two British backpackers sullied the industry’s reputation.
Visitors to Thailand should rise to 32 million in 2016, said Mrs Wattanavrangkul, emphasizing that it was not a target but an estimate. That would be more than 7 percent higher than the 29.88 million that visited in 2015. The government is targeting revenue from tourism of 2.3 trillion baht ($61.02 billion) in 2016, up from 2.21 trillion baht in 2015, she said.
The country providing the most tourists to Thailand was China, with around 8 million in 2015. Malaysia came in a distant second with more than 3 million, and Japan, third with 1.4 million. However, the Minister expects to see a slight decline of Chinese arrivals in 2016 due to economic uncertainties in that country and a slowdown in its growth rate. According to the Ministry of Tourism, total arrivals from China should hover around 7.8 to 7.9 million this year, a rather limited decline following a year of double-digit growth.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand already decided to push marketing efforts towards regional markets following the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community. The AEC is expected to boost arrivals from other ASEAN members to the Kingdom due to easier travel conditions with new flights and new checkpoints opened with Thailand neighbours.