Tourism Council of Thailand estimates international tourist arrivals to Thailand, July to September, will increase 24.62% to reach 7.29 million visits.
Speaking at the council’s press conference, Tuesday, TCT president Ittirit Kinglek said Thailand Tourism Confidence Index in Q3 shows a level of 100, which is the index’s par value based on input from 600 tour agencies.
“The kingdom’s tourism has recovered mainly on the back of the China market, which is very robust …European markets have also shown signs of recovery except for Russia …we need to source new markets to compensate for drops in that market,” the president urged.
During the first five months of the year, Thailand received 12.48 million visits up 24.98% over the same period last year. This prompted the council to revise the year’s overall target to 29.51 million visits with THB1.43 trillion in revenue. The earlier projection was 27.96 million visits and THB1.28 trillion in revenue.
Revenue estimates are based on exit survey questions that ask a visitor what was their daily spend, while holidaying in the country. Trips or visits are based on immigration bureau statistics collected at both air and land checkpoints. It excludes residents, but does include expatriate Thais who return to the country on visit friends and relatives.
The downside of the visit statistics is that includes overland trips registered at border checkpoints with Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Malaysia. Technically, the definition of a tourist trip is an overnight stay of 24 hours, but it could prove difficult to differentiate between traders who cross the border in the morning and return in the evening and a genuine tourist.
It is not clear if the immigration bureau counts all border crossings without deducting those who returned in less than 24 hours. Or if it limits the tourism count to just those who use a passport excluding those who cross using their national ID card or day passes.
The travel trade prefers to base its marketing plans on airline related travel.
This year, China should deliver around 7.45 million visits an improvement of 61.79% over last year. It should be the first year that the market will surpass 7 million visits, the president said.
But the jury is still out on the value of China’s tourism and there remains growing concerns over allowing a single market to dominate that could be detrimental to long-term goals.
There are also concerns over Thailand’s aviation safety after the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) raised a red flag over the country’s Department of Civil Aviation’s ability to manage the industry. The threat of MERS spreading across Southeast Asia is another factor that could dampen tourism.
“ICAO’s safety concerns affect charter flights as well as low-cost airlines…it reduces the opportunity for airlines to open more routes and adjust flight capacity to serve passengers…the country therefore should urgently address this issue.”
The president added: “MERS outbreaks could shake the tourism industry during the second half of this year. However, the current of MERS outbreak does not deter tourists vsiting Thailand…so far, there have been no cancellations.”
To build the country’s tourism, the council will propose a plan to tap in cruise market to the Joint Public-Private and Consultative Committee next month.
According to the plan, the TCT will call for improvements at existing ports like Laem Chabang, Bangkok Port and Phuket as well as build new ports in Krabi and Samui.
“The cruise market has high potential to support tourism… around 22 million travellers by cruises… Of that, 2.5 million foreign cruise visitors travelled to ASEAN…Singapore is the top gateway attracting 1.2 million, while Thailand only drew around 400,000 cruise visits.”
Halal or Muslim tourism is also another market that has high potential.
He cited: “Thailand could be a very Muslim friendly destination …The Tourism Authority of Thailand recently launched “Thailand Muslim Friendly Destination” free mobile application to support and assist the market. The application was available Monday for both Android and iOS.”
The Muslim population, worldwide, stands at around 1.6 billion, representing 23% of the global population. In the ASEAN region there are around 240 million Muslims, mainly in Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.
Other target markets are India, the GCC countries (United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait), Egypt, Iran and North Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria) are also very attractive markets in this category.