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Thailand’s domestic tourism provided 4 times the number of international travellers in 2019




Thailand has had plenty of interruptions to its tourism industry over the past two decades…

There was that other coronavirus scare, ‘SARS’, in 2003, the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, the global recession and riots in Thailand in 2009, major flooding at the end of 2011, political demonstration in 2013 and 2014, the bloodless military coup of May, 2014, the bombing of Erawan Shrine in Bangkok in August, 2015, the tragic boat sinking incident in Phuket in 2018. Despite all these disruptions Thailand’s tourism industry has continued to grow, earning the country a reputation for its ‘Teflon Tourism’.

Of course this year has seen its own dramatic events, this time impacting the entire world with the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic and its profound effects on the movement of people and the world economy.

Thailand’s tourism has suffered, and remains more exposed more than some regional economies because of the high proportion of revenue from the tourism sector and the contribution to the country’s GDP.

The National Economic and Social Development Council reported in February 2019 that tourism accounted for 18.4% (or close to a fifth) of Thailand’s GDP. It has risen from a level of 14.2 % of GDP just 4 years earlier. As the level of Thai exports has not grown at the same level doing this period, the proportional contribution from tourism has grown.

Thailand's domestic tourism provided 4 times the number of international travellers in 2019 | News by Thaiger

GRAPH: Thai Websites

Tourist arrivals, unsurprisingly, dropped to just 6,691 million arrivals in the first quarter of 2020, some 38.01% down on the same time in 2019. But by March the impacts of the restrictions hadn’t really started to bite. The drop in numbers during March, alone, was -76%.

But Thailand’s tourism sector doesn’t solely rely on foreign visitors. In fact the number of domestic tourists dwarfs the number of foreign tourists. Of course domestic tourists (mostly Thais) spend less per day and their trips tend to be shorter. Still, the numbers are significant. The number of domestic travellers in 2019 was actually much higher than the 39 million foreign arrivals, reaching almost 167 million trips in 2019.

The figures certainly support the Thai Government’s attempts to stimulate domestic tourism whilst the borders remain mostly closed for any sort-to-medium term international tourism. If international tourists are unable to visit the impact on the tourist economy, whilst profound, wouldn’t be catastrophic. When looking at the larger picture, domestic travel remains a very important component of the broader Thai tourism business. Over the last three years, revenue from domestic travel amounted to 35.8% of total revenue gained from tourism.

Thailand's domestic tourism provided 4 times the number of international travellers in 2019 | News by Thaiger

GRAPH: Thai Websites

Another graph from Thai Websites indicates that the ‘boom and bust’ cycle of the alleged high and low seasons is perhaps not as great as people would suggest. Whilst there is a drop of between 15-20% between the first and second quarters each year, the rest of the year is only around 10% below the peaks of the annual high season, around December up to the following February each year. The diversification of nationalities visiting Thailand over the past two decades has certainly ‘flattened the graph’ and reduced the differences between high and low season tourist traffic.

Thailand's domestic tourism provided 4 times the number of international travellers in 2019 | News by Thaiger

GRAPH: Thai Websites

Whilst there will be a complete realignment of world tourism in the next few years, Thailand is working hard to provide a Covid-free environment for the new wave of tourism, whenever that happens. In the meantime it will survive, in a tourism-lite form, with Thais and expats, taking up the opportunity to travel again.

SOURCE: Thai Websites


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  1. Avatar

    Kevin Martyn

    Wednesday, July 15, 2020 at 10:54 am

    It will be an interest to compare with all those Thais that been paid off or sacked from their jobs since March 2020

  2. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Wednesday, July 15, 2020 at 11:46 am

    How do they calculate these figures?
    The only one that could be correct is foreigners arrivals.
    But even so how long do they stay? Without that data foreigners arrivals are no indication of foreigners spend.
    One foreigner could stay a month, another a week.
    Thai tourist travels are not recorded, so how do they know how many Thai tourist numbers there are?
    I think one thing is certain. Thai dual pricing attractions will die.
    Without the foreigners high admission fees, they cannot survive.
    I was on a ferry to Ko Samet once. The Thais on the ferry were taking their own water.
    On the island water prices were very high, and they sold because foreigners were there.
    Thai government stupidity is devastating the economy. Deaths from the virus are not even one percent of those infected.
    Let the people take their chances and save the economy before it is too late.

  3. Avatar


    Wednesday, July 15, 2020 at 9:43 pm

    ” In the meantime it will survive, in a tourism-lite form, with Thais and expats, taking up the opportunity to travel again.”
    That is when they will let us (Expats) come back home to Thailand. Still waiting…………….

  4. Avatar


    Wednesday, July 15, 2020 at 10:17 pm

    Simple message

    This virus is not going anywhere until a vaccine is fully tested and in use. Learn to live with Covid, reduce the risks to a minimum by controlling it, as most of the world is now doing and get on with life, or go broke.
    You can continue avoiding the truth for only so long, because in reality Thai families are becoming desperate with insufficient funds to send their children back to school or even buy sufficient food. Let alone become an internal tourist. wake up Thailand and open the doors without ripping off those that will provide the lifeline you desperately need.

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