Country poised to beat tourism target

Indians and Malaysians lead rush in absence of key Chinese market

International tourists enjoy taking photos in Phuket Old Town. (Bangkok Post File Photo)
International tourists enjoy taking photos in Phuket Old Town. (Bangkok Post File Photo)

Thailand is on course to surpass its target to attract 10 million foreign visitors this year as Malaysians and Indians lead the return of holidaymakers, even as zero-Covid rules keep most Chinese travellers at home.

Tourist arrivals totalled 7.56 million as of Oct 30, with at least 1.5 million a month expected during the remainder of the year, government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said in a statement on Saturday. Flight bookings from India and Malaysia to Thailand showed a load-factor of 85% and 68% respectively during November and December, he said.

More than 1 million Malaysians have already visited the country this year, making them the single-largest group of foreign travellers. Almost 600,000 Indians arrived in the first nine months of the year, compared with fewer than 1,000 a year earlier.

The country is counting on tourism revival to offset the hit from high global energy prices and volatile financial markets that sent the baht to a 16-year low and inflation to a 14-year high earlier this year. The government scrapped all travel curbs in July as local Covid cases fell and most businesses returned to normal operations, helping draw tourists who were mostly absent in the previous two years. 

The number of visitors may surge to 18 million next year and generate about 970 billion baht in tourism revenue, Mr Anucha said, citing a forecast by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. That’s still a far cry from the year before the pandemic when the country welcomed 40 million foreign arrivals and earned more than $60 billion in tourism revenue. 

Domestic travel is forecast to generate 760 billion baht in revenue in 2023, according to the TAT.

“Thailand still remains a popular destination that can meet the needs of tourists who want to visit,” Mr Anucha said. “It can compete with other countries” seeking to attract tourists, he said.