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Published on : Wednesday, July 19, 2017
As this influx gets harder to deal with, the government is shifting strategy. It’s now targeting a minimum increase in tourism revenue of about 5 percent annually instead of a particular number of visitors, according to Thailand Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul. That means encouraging longer stays and higher daily spending.
The minister said, “Maybe they’re the ones who are like: this is my time — I eat, I shop, and I eat, and I shop.”
As per Tourism Ministry data, Australian visitors were among the top 10 biggest spenders in terms of per capita daily expenditure last year, forking out 5,831 baht ($172). Their average length of stay of almost 14 days was the highest in that group. Some even take longer holidays but tend to be thriftier. British tourists, for instance, stayed for just over 18 days on average while spending 4,376 baht daily.
Tourism is integral for Thailand’s economy, which faces challenges such as political uncertainty and sluggish consumer demand. The sector makes up about 18 percent of gross domestic product.
Kobkarn said, “We no longer have a target for number of tourists. We shouldn’t go beyond the limit that we can cope. But there’s no statistic on that yet. When people say that Phuket may be too crowded, or Bangkok is too crowded, we have to make sure that we are introducing new destinations too.”
Arrivals from overseas more than doubled in the past decade, due to a surge in Chinese holidaymakers who contributed 28 percent of 1.6 trillion baht in foreign tourism in 2016.
Affordability is one reason why Thailand has surpassed Malaysia as Southeast Asia’s most popular destination, but Kobkarn said the nation must focus on quality as well to fight emerging competitive threats from the likes of Myanmar and Vietnam.
Visitors from the Middle East are the biggest per capita daily spenders, according to the Tourism Ministry data.