Post-pandemic shift in tourist spending habits reveals TikTok’s role in Thai travel

Photo courtesy of Apichart Jinakul

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) divulged insightful data revealing a shift in foreign tourists’ spending habits post-pandemic and the surge in popularity of TikTok as a source of travel information and inspiration. A survey conducted by TAT’s digital R&D Deputy Governor Teerasil Tapen, encompassing 30,054 tourists in 2023, unveiled an increased average expenditure on individual trips, rising from 48,209 baht (US$1,345) in 2019 to 50,900 baht (US$1,420), with a significant proportion allocated to accommodation.

Visitors, having paid higher airfares, showed a preference for more luxurious hotels or resorts, leading to an increase in accommodation spending from 18,451 baht (US$515) before the pandemic to 23,518 baht (US$656) per trip. In contrast, street food emerged as a more popular choice over fine dining, with its patronage increasing from 63% to 77.3%. This preference for the affordability of street food led to decreased expenditure on food and beverages, from 5,875 baht (US$164) in 2019 to 4,094 baht (US$114).

According to Teerasil, the rise in street food consumption is linked to tourists’ desire for a more localised travel experience. The trend of café hopping also surged, from 11.6% in 2019 to 33.2% in 2023, in line with the global increase in coffee consumption.

From a regional perspective, Middle Eastern tourists emerged as the biggest spenders, with an average expenditure of 88,512 baht (US$2,470) per trip. They were closely followed by tourists from Oceania (64,860 baht/US$1,810), the US (60,474 baht/US$1,687), and Europe (59,345 baht/US$1,656).

Over half of the individual travellers (53.7%) utilised online bookings via websites or apps for their travel and accommodation needs in Thailand. Meanwhile, 22.6% continued to rely on travel agents or tour operators, indicating a continued preference for traditional booking methods for certain services.

In the digital realm, TAT has seen an increase in followers across its social media platforms. As of 2023, TAT had over 6.4 million followers on its official Line account, 2.6 million on Facebook, and 201,456 on X. Interestingly, the fastest-growing platform in 2022-2023 was TikTok, which experienced a staggering 97.2% growth to almost 30,000 users within a year. Instagram also saw a 10% growth in followers, reaching nearly 200,000 users, reported Bangkok Post.

TAT plans to harness the growing trend of short reels or stories on social media by collaborating with influencers and key opinion leaders to promote Thai destinations and activities to new users. For the fiscal year 2024, TAT’s digital department has requested around 180 million baht to primarily use social media to reach potential tourists directly.

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Alex Morgan

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