Most tourism discussions in Thailand centre around incoming international travellers to the kingdom. But Thai people are also travelling abroad in record numbers, the highest in three years. In the last quarter of 2022, an average of 28,000 Thai people are travelling outbound each day to other countries.
That average has already climbed a bit in the first 20 days of December to 28,800 per day. Over the 10-day peak New Year period, that total is predicted to jump up to 33,400 Thai people leaving the country each day. These are by far the highest figures outbound travel has seen since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A lot of the travel could be attributed to the middle- to high-income earners in Thailand stuck within the kingdom, unable to travel due to border closures, lockdowns, and travel restrictions. As predicted with incoming tourists, the swell of Thai travellers going abroad is likely amplified by the pent-up urge to travel finally able to be satiated.
The relaxation of travel restrictions finally, coupled with the baht’s stronger position against other foreign currencies currently, makes now an ideal time for many to travel. Airlines have been ramping up their service, adding flights and destinations for Thai people wishing to travel abroad as well.
The most popular spots for Thai people to travel, especially during the upcoming New Year holiday, are short-haul trips around Asia and Southeast Asia. Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, and Laos are the most favoured destinations.
Booking.com shared statistics that Thai people have booked more hotels this month throughout Asia than in previous months. Airlines are increasing their flights and routes, and even encountering trouble keeping up with demand in some instances.
Thai AirAsia said their load factor to Japan increased to 90% in December, which averages to about 207 people on each plane after they’ve already added extra flights. The airline’s long-haul subsidy Thai AirAsia X also reported a load factor nearly as high with their flights to Tokyo, Sapporo, and Osaka at 88% capacity.
They are finding that their biggest limitation is the lack of planes to make more trips to Asian cities to carry Thai travellers. Flights from Bangkok to Tokyo used to run 21 per week before Covid, and stand now at just 9 per week. Similarly, flights to the South Korean capital of Seoul used to run 21 times per week and now only operate 10 times per week.
TAT governor Yuttasak Supasorn points out though that this surge in Thai people skipping the country for other destinations might actually hurt domestic tourism revenue.
“The outbound market in December, particularly during the New Year holiday, saw the highest numbers in three years. This could affect domestic tourism to some extent as people pivot their spending to outbound destinations.”