International tourist arrivals to Thailand posted a decline of 10.66%, January to August, this year, according to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports.
Released late last week, the ministry reported 15,703,373 visits to the country during the first eight months, down just short of 2 million visits, from 17,576,342 over the same period last year.
The Ministry of Tourism and Sports admitted that it will be difficult to meet earlier targets to raise tourist arrivals to 28 million this year.
The ministry’s permanent secretary, Suwat Sidthilaw, said the year would close with with 25.5 million visits and THB1.8 trillion in tourism related revenue.
The original target was 28 million foreign visitors and THB2 trillion in tourism-related income.
However, the ministry hopes that income from tourism will reach THB2.2 trillion in 2015.
The new Minster of Tourism and Sports, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, said last week she wants to draw more quality tourists to Thailand and use social networks as the main marketing channel to promote tourism. She was echoing sentiments expressed by former minsters who repeatedly called for an emphasis on quality tourism without offering practical suggestions on how to achieve the goal.
The ministry also wants to promote Thailand as an educational and medical tourism hub in ASEAN.
In August alone, foreign travellers recorded 2,076,444 visits, down 11.85% from 2,355,660 visits, during the same month last year.
All markets in August recorded declines except for Africa, which is not a high volume market for Thailand at the best of times.
Africa recorded a growth of 23.22% from 13,836 to 17,049 visits. However, the main market South Africa decreased 1.68% from 4,579 to 4,502 visits.
Europe posted a decline of 3.30% from 397,198 to 384,081 trips. Most markets posted declines: Russia (-18.16%); Norway (-16.87%); Denmark (-15.25%); Spain (-14.36%); Sweden (-9.26%); Austria (-7.15%); UK (-1.48%); Finland (-1.41%); Ireland (-1.03%); and Switzerland (-0.20%).
The growth markets were East Europe (+16.68%); Germany (+8.35%); Netherlands (+4.40%); Italy (+3.09%); Belgium (+2.80%); and France (+0.35%).
The Middle East declined 4.04% from 94,056 to 90,254. United Arab Emirates arrivals totalled 25,861 an increase of 1.65% from 25,440. Other main markets were: Israel (11,957; -1.01%); Kuwait (11,566; -18.19%); Egypt (3,629; +7.91%); and Saudi Arabia (1,860; -51.14%).
Visits from Oceania were down 4.05% from 76,553 to 73,456. The main market New Zealand declined 7.68% (9,598), while Australia fell 3.66% (63,493).
The Americas dropped 7.92% from 74,827 to 68,900. Only Brazil posted a growth of 15.36% from 2,161 to 2,493. The United States recorded the highest arrivals at 49,773 down 8.47% from 54,376 following by Canada (12,013; -13.34%) and Argentina (760; -9.85%).
South Asia represented a decline of 10.47% from 120,569 to 107,950 visits. India supplied 76,313 visits, down 14.75% from 89,518 followed by Bangladesh (10,184; -2.94%), Sri Lanka (7,581; -0.22%), Pakistan (7,264; -4.16%), and Nepal (2,746; +4.02%).
East Asia (ASEAN included) reported a decrease of 15.45% from 1,578,621 to 1,334,754 visits in August.
Declines were registered in Indonesia (-45.22%); Malaysia (-34.84%); Vietnam (-29.59%); Taiwan (-20.57%); Hong Kong (-20.00%); Japan (-19.34%); Brunei (-17.56%); South Korea (-10.69%); Laos (-8.45%); China (-5.18%); and Singapore (-2.62%).
The markets that showed improvement were: Myanmar (+33.94%); Cambodia (+18.99%); and the Philippines (+18.71%).
In August, the tourism ministry reported international tourists at the country’s gateways, Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports, decreased 14.54% from 1,571,260 to 1,342,723 visits.