Thailand has defied predictions of a drop in tourism after the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 2016 plunged the nation into a year of mourning and political uncertainty. The country is also becoming a case study of how destinations are getting smarter about solving overtourism, one of the megatrends Skift is tracking in 2017.
Thailand received a record 32.59 million foreign visitors last year, with revenue beating expectations and likely to exceed previous forecasts this year by growing 10 percent or more, officials said Monday.
Thailand is proving popular even as terror scares, including a series of bombings in resort towns killing four people, and the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej had hotels and tour guides across the country on edge. Tourism fared better than expected after a bloodless coup deposed Thailand’s elected government in 2014 as well.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand said Monday that the tourist industry earned 2.52 trillion baht ($71.4 billion) last year, up 11 percent from 2015.
It said the country’s tourism industry is projected to bring in 733 billion baht ($20.8 billion) in the first quarter of this year, up 8 percent from the first quarter of 2016. Officials said their estimates, covering foreign and domestic tourists combined, indicate tourism revenue for all of 2017 may surpass earlier forecasts of 2.77 trillion baht ($78.5 billion).
Thailand is the eleventh most-visited country in the world and boasted the sixth largest tourism industry by revenue in 2015, according to a U.N. report. Most travelers come from China, South Korea, and Japan, lured by Thailand’s year-round warm weather, as well as Western countries and Thailand’s neighbors in Southeast Asia.
Foreign tourists are by far the most lucrative for the economy.
Foreign arrivals are projected to total 9.3 million in the first quarter of this year, accounting for 490 billion baht ($13.9 billion) in revenue. In the same period, some 32.5 million Thai travelers accounted for 240 billion baht ($6.8 billion).
“Thailand is still a popular destination,” Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said at a news conference. “We have a lot of different things to offer our foreign visitors.”
A steady economy and a growing number of travelers worldwide explain the boom, Yuthasak said.
“Stability and improvements in the economy mean more foreign tourist arrivals,” he said. “So there’s clearly demand, and it’s up to us to accommodate everyone who wants to come.”
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Photo credit: Chinese tourists pose for a photograph in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. China is now the largest source of overseas holidaymakers in this Southeast Asian nation. Apichart Weerawong / Associated Press