Thailand: Tourism set to fall short

Tourism revenue from the international market in 2024 will not be able to match the level recorded in 2019, as the target has been downgraded to 1.92 trillion baht from an earlier target of 2.29 trillion baht due to the impact of a “polycrisis”, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

However, the overall target has been maintained at 3 trillion baht, as the agency will push the domestic market to reach 1.08 trillion baht next year.

The revised official target was released yesterday after TAT finished its 2024 action plan last week. Earlier, the government expected to attract 40 million foreign tourists this year, generating 2.29 billion baht, as was achieved in 2019.

Yuthasak Supasorn, TAT governor, said Thailand is in the midst of a polycrisis in which several negative events have simultaneously hammered the tourism industry, such as inflation, recession, interest rate hikes, surging fuel prices and the slow resumption of international flights at only 70% of 2019 levels.

Meanwhile, growth drivers, such as the Chinese market, have not been as robust as expected, which could be a challenge for tourism next year.

Mr Yuthasak said the worst-case scenario might also see stagnant revenue of 2.4 trillion baht in 2024, or about the same level as this year.

However, if calculated from the best-case scenario at 1.92 trillion baht, the short-haul market would generate the most revenue at 1.2 trillion baht from a huge volume of around 25.8 million visitors, accounting for 74% of the total.

The remainder would be from the long-haul market, which should earn 720 billion baht from 9.2 million visitors.

Tanes Petsuwan, TAT deputy governor for Asia and the South Pacific, said the short-haul market would see a faster recovery in revenue at 94% of the level recorded in 2019, while the volume of visitors would grow at a slower rate, reaching only 83% of the level recorded before the pandemic.

The agency expects the short-haul market to close this year with 18 million tourists contributing 949 billion baht in revenue.

Mr Tanes said Thailand might get only 7-8 million Chinese visitors next year, compared with 10 million in 2019.

Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, TAT deputy governor for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas, said remaining challenges include ongoing geopolitical tensions and high oil prices, which result in greater expenses for travellers.

Next year, international flights are expected to return to 85-90% of 2019 levels. Mr Siripakorn said a full aviation recovery would probably take until 2025, based on forecasts made by the the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand.

Air traffic during the summer schedule this year would reach 100,493 inbound flights in total, up from 53,839 flights in the 2022 winter schedule.