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Thailand : Tourist Arrivals from 1998 till 2010. Quarterly Data 2007-2011

by JONYTHAI JONY JUNG 2011. 10. 5.

Thailand : Tourist Arrivals from 1998 till 2010. Quarterly Data 2007-2011

 

Last update this page : 12 July 2011. See quarterly data from 2007 till now at bottom of this page. Both the first and second quarter have the highest number of tourist arrivals on record.. Tourism is booming at present in fact, and maybe we are heading for close to 20 million visitors in 2011, which would be an unprecedented jump in visitors. Interestingly, hotel operators still regularly complain, when we have to go by what is reported in the English-language newspapers.

[previous content of this page, about the effect of the tsunami on tourism, has moved]

International arrivals to Thailand from 1998 to 2010 show a significant rise from 1998 onwards. There are signficant dips with the SARS epidemic, and after the Tsunami of end 2004. Global recession (from end 2008), political disturbances in 2009 and 2010 also had an effect on tourist arrivals. [See chart below]

Both the Office of Tourism Development and the National Economic and Social Development Board (NSDB) provide arrival statistics, though not always timely or easy to find. We almost accidentally found the best updated files eventually on the Office of Tourism Development website (follow the little banner on the left saying : Tourism Statistics, on this otherwise Thai language website).

 

Since somewhere in the middle of 2008 a severe worldwide recession dampened the desire to travel. Thailand furthermore suffered from political instability, starting with the closure of Suvarnabhumi Airport (26 november 2008, by the Yellow Shirts protesters). A Red Shirt mob invaded the East Asia Summit in Pattaya on 11 April 2009, leading to a cancellation of the summit, with world leaders scurried away to safety. This was followed by violent riots the next day (during Songkhran) and the declaration of a state of emergency by prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. The protesters withdrew and the state of emergency was lifted on 24 April.

On top of all that, flu cases emerged in March and April of 2009 in Mexico, with the official first announcement of the new H1N1 flu on 23 April. On 12 May, it was made public by Health Minister Witthaya Kaewparadai that two Thais who returned from Mexico had been infected with swine and subsequently recovered. Fortunately while infections became epidemic, the resulting health risk of H1N1 infection proved to be less serious than expected by some.

The graph below shows the evolution of international visitors to Thailand between 1998 and 2010. We made the graph but the data come from the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Despite the serious disturbances in April 2009, tourism arrivals for the whole year were only mildly affected, with a significant upturn (+28%) in the last quarter of 2009, when compared to the last quarter of 2010.

The first quarter of 2010 was promising, but serious demonstrations by the Red Shirts happened in April and May 2010. Eventually rioters occupying a large area in the center of Bangkok's shopping district were dispersed (with many casualties). This was world-news and had serious consequences for the tourism industry during the second quarter.

However, arrivals during the third and final quarter of 2010 saw much increased tourist arrival numbers (see chart at bottom), and the year 2010 in total shows the highest number on record of tourist arrivals. 2011, as judged by the first two quarters, will likely turn out even (much) better.

The downturn in the second quarter of 2009 was expected by the prime minister (as reported in April 2009) to cost the country something like 4 billion U.S. Dollar. Likely, in 2010 a similar amount of money was lost for the tourism industry.

Anyway, 2011 turns out to be a bumper year for tourism. Hopefully nothing untoward happens during the latter part of 2011.

In the recent past, both SARS in early 2003, and the Tsunami of december 2004, had significant effects on the number of international arrivals. Bird flu also emerged at the beginning of 2004 in Thailand and probably with the Tsunami, caused a decreased number of visitors in the 2004-2005 period.

The health scare (and tsunami) had a much larger impact on tourist arrivals than the political events during 2009 and 2010.

Tourism Industry in Thailand

Thailand's tourism industry makes up about 6.5 percent of the country's GDP. When seeing the number of tourists, and the number of tourist destinations and hotels, one would actually expect a more substantial portain of GDP. But Thailand's tourism industry, while very visible, brings in much less money than other service industries, and certainly less than its manufacturing industry.
Nevertheless, international visitors spent more than 547 billion baht (something like 16 billion U.S. Dollars) in 2008. The average length of stay per tourist in 2007 was 9 days.

Interestingly, the tourism sector does not only depend on foreign visitors. The number of domestic tourists actually dwarfs the number of foreign tourists. But domestic tourists (mostly Thais) do spend much less per day and their trips are shorter, on average two days and a half. In 2007 there were reportedly more than 83 million in-country travel trips. This created 380 billion baht in revenue.
Average daily expenditure was around 1770 baht per person in 2007 (as compared to 4120 baht per person for international tourism).
In 2008, 52.37 % of international tourists were East Asian, with Malaysia and Japan providing the most visitors. Close to two million Malaysians visited Thailand. We assume they take short trips over the Thai-Malaysian border, and we think the number of Malaysian visitors, unduly inflates the total number of international visitors.
Europeans provided close to 4 million visitors in 2008, about 27.22 % of the total. The number of visitors from the Americas, South Asia and Africa, is much smaller. However, close to 700,000 Australians visited Thailand, which is actually an enormous number, when taking the total population of Australia into account.

 

Arrivals from 2007 to 2011 per quarter :

The number of tourist arrivals in the first quarter and second quarter of 2009 were 3,64 million and 2,96 million respectively. These figures were lower than during the first 2 quarters of 2007 or 2008. In the third quarter of 2009 we see that the number of visitors is similar to the number of visitors in both 2007 and 2008, suggesting that the worst was over. In the 4th quarter of 2009, we saw more arrivals than in 2007 and 2008. See the yellow line crossing over in the graph below.
The first quarter of 2010 saw a significant increase of tourist arrivals, especially in January and February.

Related to the political disturbances during April and May 2010, the second quarter arrivals of 2010 were low (but not much lower than in the second quarter of 2009, which also was characterized by riots and demonstrations. However, tourism rebounded strongly during the third and fourth quarter of 2010, with arrivals higher than in any of the preceding years. The highest number ever of arrivals is in the most recent period : the first quarter of 2011 (at 5.33 million visitors). The second quarter of 2011 saw a 50% increase when compared to the second dismal quarter of 2010.

We figure that Thailand missed out on in between 1 and 2 million potential extra visitors in both 2009 and 2010. Total arrivals for 2010 where the highest on record, despite the actually very serious political disturbances in the second quarter of the year. Except for the second quarter itself, all the other quarters of 2010 show numbers higher than before.

It is interesting to know that negative factors seem to loose influence in just 2 to 3 months each time, with visitors resuming their interest in Thailand as a tourist destination thereafter.

It looks like 2011 is going to be the best year for tourism on record, and we may be heading for close to 20 million arrivals.

Numbers show number of tourist arrivals (in millions).

Dates of political unrest :

2009 : most negative events 11-12 April
2010 : most negative events : around 19 May

Charts copyright ThaiWebsites.com

 

 

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