Thai tourism tally seen beating target by 15% on year-end rush

At least 11.5 million international travellers will arrive in Thailand this year. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BANGKOK – Thailand will exceed its most-recent target for foreign tourist arrivals by about 15 per cent, buoyed by a year-end rush of visitors from Europe and the United States, according to the government’s tourism agency. 

At least 11.5 million international travellers will come this year, compared to a target of 10 million, according to Mr Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. The nation already recorded 10.9 million foreign arrivals through Dec 20, with a rush of people expected in the final days of 2022, he said. 

Thailand’s foreign-arrival number has picked up since mid-year, as almost all Covid-related restrictions have been lifted, giving a boost to Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy. About 12 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product came through foreign tourism before the pandemic, according to government data.  

Revenue from the tourism sector, including domestic travellers, will reach 1.5 trillion baht (S$58 billion) in 2022, about half the pre-Covid-19 level, Mr Yuthasak said. That number will be seen from international visitors alone next year, with the sector expected to deliver 2.38 trillion baht in 2023, including activity among Thais, he said.  

The tourism agency kept its target for foreign visitors in 2023 unchanged at 20 million – half the record tally in 2019. Thailand’s top markets this year have been Malaysia, India, Laos, Cambodia and Singapore, Mr Yuthasak said, adding that people from Europe and the US are rising up the ranks as they trade the cold winter for Thailand’s tropical climate. 

China, the largest market three years ago, is likely to open for travel in the first quarter of 2023, he said. 

“China’s reopening will be a welcome surprise for Thailand if the momentum is sustained,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Sufianti said in a report this week on the outlook for Thai equities.

The Stock Exchange of Thailand Tourism & Leisure Index is up 33 per cent this year, compared with a drop of about 2.5 per cent for the benchmark SET Index. The best-performers in the sector are Central Plaza Hotel Pcl, up 59 per cent in 2022, and Erawan Group Pcl, which has gained 46 per cent. The pair are also the largest by market value in the industry gauge. BLOOMBERG

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