Tourism Authority of Thailand: 18 million tourists in 2023

FILE PHOTO: The TAT is predicting bigger - but not huge - crowds for next year.

After arriving tourist numbers crossed seven million last month, inching toward the goal of 10 million for the year, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is making middle-of-the-road projections for 2023. While they don’t believe that Thailand will see anything like the 40 million tourists per year they saw before Covid, the TAT is estimating 18 million international arrivals next year.

They are setting their sights on short-haul markets like Southeast Asia and the South Pacific while not getting their hopes up for a wave of Chinese tourists coming to Thailand anytime soon. With a 2023 target of 971 billion baht in revenue, TAT officials are expecting just under 600 billion baht of that to come from short-haul sources.

The TAT Deputy Governor of marketing for Asia and the South Pacific says that they predict 13 million tourists from short-haul destinations to arrive in Thailand next year, about 72% of the overall arrivals.

This year, nearby countries like India and Malaysia have dominated the resurgence of tourists in Thailand. Over a million Malaysians entered Thailand this year, making them the largest demographic. Malaysia is seeing a 68% flight load factor, while India is pumping planes full of tourists, with an 85% load factor.

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But the country with the most flights resumed from their previous pre-pandemic schedules was Vietnam. According to Bangkok Post, flights between Vietnam and Thailand are now operating at 89% of their pre-Covid numbers.

Rounding off the year, nearly 16,000 flights are scheduled with 2.87 million seats already confirmed, meaning the goal of 10 million tourists to Thailand this year is achievable. So far this year, nearby regions have been the key. South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the South Pacific made up 54% of the total visitors to Thailand, with some 4.1 million travellers.

The East Asian market has been slow to reopen, with China still fairly locked. But tourists from Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and other East Asian countries made up 11% of travellers to Thailand this year, 831,742 people so far. And China did have some student and business travellers, just under 200,000 of them.

The TAT has tempered its predictions for next year. You can almost hear them sighing as they diplomatically express their patience for China to loosen its policy to allow mainland tourists to travel to Thailand. But until then, they are aggressively targeting secondary cities in India like Ahmedabad, Jaipur, and Lucknow, as well as East Asia and other short-haul markets, to reach their goal.

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.