Having smashed all previous tourist records, the Tourism Authority of Thailand ended 2019 predicting 2020 would see 3.18 trillion baht in tourism revenue. As a year no one expected comes to a close, Tourism revenue will finish the year with only 26 percent of that.
TAT Gov. Yuthasak Supasorn said Dec. 26 that total tourism revenue will total about 830 billion baht this year – 330 billion from foreign tourists and 500 billion from domestic travelers. And 2021 doesn’t look much better.
The authority expects tourism revenue next year to increase 44.6 percent to 1.3 trillion baht, with only 38.4 percent of that – 500 billion baht – coming from foreign tourists. It won’t be until 2022 that Thailand’s tourism industry will recover to two-thirds of 2019’s figures, Yuthasak predicted.
The start of the new decade looked blindingly bright for Thailand’s tourism industry a year ago. TAT expected to draw 40.8 million overseas visitors and get 172 million Thais to travel. The pandemic and a months-long lockdown destroyed those hopes.
In the end, only 6.7 million foreigners arrived in Thailand this year, nearly all of them before mid-March. And, despite spending nearly 30 billion baht on subsidized travel programs, the government enticed only 95 million Thais to travel domestically.
November’s figures show the ineffectiveness of the “We Travel Together” and other programs: Domestic tourists increased only 6.6 percent to 16 million over October and down from 18 million in 2019.
TAT believes next year will see 120 million domestic tourists and 10 million foreign arrivals. In 2022, that should increase to 180 million domestic tourists and 20.8 million foreigners.
While this year has been an unmitigated disaster for the industry, there have been some signs of life for the hotel industry recently, Yuthasak said.
Occupancy rates in April during the shutdown period averaged 2 percent. That increased to 20 percent in July, 34 percent in October and 38 percent in December, he said.
As large numbers of tourists won’t start returning until the second half of next year, Yuthasak said TAT’s focus now is on “quality tourists”, code for big spenders. By 2022, the authority wants to see the average amount spent by each foreign traveler to increase from 47,000 baht in 2019 to 62,000 baht, and Thai expenditures to rise from 4,700 baht per person to 4,900 baht.
Yuthasak said he is confident in Thailand’s resurgence, claiming there is considerable pent-up demand abroad and most tourists still list Thailand in their top 10 destinations. But recovery will depend on the progress of Thai public-health measures, spread of coronavirus vaccines and foreign government’s travel restrictions.
But, if all goes to plan, 2022 will see Thailand earn 2.5 trillion in tourism revenue, Yuthasak said. But 2020 hindsight shows what can happen to big plans.