In recent years Thailand’s tourist industry has gone from strength to strength, driven primarily by the huge Chinese numbers; but that is only half the story and it would appear there are underlying problems starting to emerge.

In 2018 there were over 38million arrivals into Thailand and almost a third were Chinese. Records were being broken on a monthly basis.  However, even though Thailand once again predicted a record year again in 2019, it does not appear to be going to plan – Chinese numbers are down for starters.

I was speaking to a number of hotelier GM’s in Bangkok and they are expecting 2020 to be down on numbers and they also said the resort industry so far this year had been ‘a disaster’. Which was interesting insight as we can often be blinded by headline figures and think everyone is getting the share of the spoils. It would appear that is not the case.

It makes sense too, after all it is well documented that the European numbers are down and these are the profiles that use resorts.  With murmurings of a global recession looming and European issues like ‘Brexit’ still to be resolved it could very well be a tough few years ahead for this market, and that will impact on Thailand.

There is of course the issue of the baht strength which has got stronger against not just the pound, euro and Aussie dollar – but that all important Chinese yuan too.

However we must not forget only around 8% of Chinese have passports, surely as this grows so too will arrivals into Thailand? I quizzed the hoteliers.  They were less sure and said the Chinese Government were hell bent on increasing domestic travel in China and given the control over it’s people could swing this overnight.

China as a tourist destination is all set to become the main global player, so their worries could have some merit. If you thought Thailand’s 38million arrivals in 2018 was impressive, by 2030 China is set to attract over 127million.

The hoteliers were also pretty sure that the Chinese travelers to Thailand that we have been seeing are ‘pioneering’ travelers, given that it has only been so many years that China has allowed such numbers to leave the country. The belief in the industry is these tourists will move on to discover new countries over the next few years, cheaper ones too, like the Philippines and Vietnam.

I found it most insightful to hear from those closer to the reality of what is happening to tourism in Thailand but do accept it is only an opinion, but, clearly, an informed one at that.

Time will tell what the future holds, but until the Thai bahts strength eases off it could certainly appear the next couple of years could be a tougher than expected one for tourism arrivals in Thailand.


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