Thailand just got the most tourists ever as boom continues

Tourists waiting in line to check in at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, on Jan 16, 2018.
Tourists waiting in line to check in at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, on Jan 16, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) - Thailand received a record number of foreign tourists for a single month as a boom in arrivals continues.

Arrivals jumped almost 16 per cent in December from a year earlier to an unprecedented 3.5 million, the Tourism Ministry's Permanent Secretary Pongpanu Svetarundra said in a briefing in Bangkok on Tuesday (Jan 16). He predicted a fresh high in January amid the traditional peak season for tourism.

"We will continue to keep breaking records," Pongpanu said.

Pongpanu said the government is targeting 37 million visitors in 2018 and 3 trillion baht (S$124.2 billion) of revenue from domestic and foreign tourists combined. That would be worth more than a fifth of the economy - and put ever greater strain on congested airports as well as Bangkok's packed roads and metro system.

Tourism and exports have contributed to an acceleration in economic growth in the military-run country, as well as an appreciation in its currency.

The baht has strengthened more than 2 per cent against the US dollar this year, one of the strongest performers in Asia, prompting concern that the climb will eventually harm competitiveness in Southeast Asia's second-largest economy.