Thailand looks set to reach its goal of 40 million tourist arrivals in 2019, the Thai Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Economic and Business Forecasting (CEBF) has confirmed. The implementation of campaigns promoting tourism in local cities, as well as the extension of the waiver on eVisa on arrival fees, have been cited as key factors for the significant increase from the previous year.
Thanawat Polvichai, the Director of CEBF, has called for the Thai government to step up tourism promotion even further with the aim of combating the economic uncertainty faced by the country. He specifically encouraged further extensions of the eVisa on arrival fee waiver as well as the implementation of tourist safety measures in order to further stimulate growth in the Thai tourism sector.
In general, the number of foreign visitors to Thailand has been on a rapid incline since 2005, when tourist arrivals only totaled 11 million visitors. In 2018, the country received the highest number of tourists yet with over 38 million arrivals, a rise of 7.54% from the 35 million visitors in 2017.
The implementation of the Thai visa on arrival is believed to have vastly increased the number of visitors to the country, as it eliminated the need to obtain prior travel authorization from a Thai embassy or consulate for many foreign visitors. The decision of the Thai government to waive the additional visa payment on arrival from December 2018 is also believed to have given tourist numbers an additional boost and contributed to the record tourist numbers in 2019.
Further growth in the sector is expected following the introduction of an electronic version of the visa, the Thai eVisa on arrival, which allows travelers from eligible countries to pre-register an application online and save even more time at border entry checkpoints.
Tourism is now considered a major contributor to the Thai economy, hence the continued push to increase the number of arrivals in the country. Tourism revenue is estimated to make up between 9% and 17.7% percent of the total GDP of Thailand, depending on the year.
The highest number of visitors to Thailand from an individual country consistently comes from China, with over 10 million Chinese tourists choosing to visit in 2018. Visitors from ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries, including Malaysia and Laos, also make the top 10 list of foreign arrivals in Thailand. Arrivals from neighboring Southeast Asian countries are only expected to rise in the coming years with the ever-increasing economic growth and disposable income that accompanies it.
Given the unwavering increase over the past 10 years, the number of annual global tourist arrivals in Thailand is forecasted to reach almost 80 million by 2030. In fact, the Thai government used the projected tourist numbers of 100 million arrivals per year by 2032 in order to justify the building of a new coal-fired power plant in 2015, as 40 percent alone are expected to visit Phuket and neighboring Krabi, where the plant is located.
Even if the final numbers don’t quite match the predictions, it is nevertheless clear that tourism in Thailand is on an upward trajectory that doesn’t seem like it will slow down anytime soon.
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