Tourist Arrivals to Thailand by Nationality 2002 and 2012

See also : Tourism Revenue by Visitor Region of Origin.

See also latest updates for arrivals in 2013 and 2014.

The number of tourist arrivals in Thailand, with some hiccups, is steadily increasing over the last two decades. Arrivals increased from 10,8 million in 2002 to 14,5 million and 2007, and more than doubled in a decade to 22,35 million in 2012. Preliminary numbers (first quarter) for 2013, show we may be heading to more than 25 million.

Visitors from all regions in the world have been increasing (see table 1). Arrivals from Asean countries ( Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam, just top arrivals from (other) East Asian heavily populated countries (China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Taiwan). Europe as a whole is close behind, though the 'traditional markets' there show relative decline (see lower). Asia and Europe combined make up way above 80% of all arrivals.

Tourist Arrivals in Thailand by Region of Origin

Arrivals by country in 2012 (see Table 2 just below) show that China has taken the top spot. Malaysia takes second place, while Japan, Russia, South Korea, and India all pass the million visitors mark. Malaysia and Laos both provide a substantial number of visitors, both being direct neightbours of Thailand. We assume that only visitors spending nights in Thailand are included, and that this is not just a count of people crossing the border on daytrips or shopping trips.

Thailand receives more visitors from the United Kingdom than from the whole U.S.A. despite comparable distances to the country.

Things become more interesting when we look at where the growth in arrivals is coming from.

Tourist Arrivals in Thailand by Country of Origin (2012)

Arrivals from Russia, and the Asean countries of Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, have grown fast in the last decade. India, China, Indonesia, and Australia also have shown faster than average growth (when compared to the total tourist market, which has grown by 107% in the last decade).

Then come the stallwarts such as most of the West European countries. Some countries are providing an ever decreasing relative (though the absolute number of arrivals keeps increasing) number of arrivals. Striking is the modest growth of U.S.A. (did Americans stop traveling abroad?) and Japanese visitors.

Growth in Tourist Arrivals to Thailand.

To see where future growth in tourist arrivals may be coming from, it is useful to notice the number of visitors per country, divided by the total population of that country.

Strikingly, more than 1 in 7 Singaporeans, visit Thailand each year. Passing by close neighbouring countries, it is noticeable tha 1 in 25 Australians does likewise!

From the lower end of the table below, we can surely predict that future growth is likely to come most from China, India, and Indonesia. If just one percent of mainland Chinese and Indians decide to vacation in Thailand, which does not seem unrealistic, when looking at recent growth in arrival numbers, the number of visitors to Thailand will more than double.

Will this be a good development? Surely the industry may become ever more depending on rising number of visitors, and any sudden negative development (like a health scare, and new political disturbances) may create a crisis of sorts. And would it be wise to double the number of hotels? After all, visitors may want to visit the sites and see the views, instead of noticing just the building sites all around them.

Percentage of total population of selected countries, visiting Thailand

Growth in Arrivals to Thailand from BRICS countries.

Tourist clearly are coming from countries where the economy is not overly in the dolldrums. BRICS countries like Russia, India and China provide ever increasing numbers of visitors. Brazil and South Africa still have to discover the country, maybe the distance is an issue.



Additional comments :

When providing these kind of numbers, we often get comments suggesting that the increasing number of tourists reported, does not match the realities observed. Mostly Western readers, seem to think that the number of tourists reported is exaggerated by 'authorities'.

An explanation may be that the relative number of arrivals from Western countries, is slowly decreasing. The Russians are obviously coming and this is often commented on in the Thai media. Furthermore, to many local Western residents, it is difficult to make distinctions between different Asian nationalities. They simply do not notice the ever increasing numbers of Asian visitors, superficially thinking they are all 'Thai'.

When walking down the lower end of Sukhumvit road, which is the area of residence of many Western visitors and residents, one may think that there is an ever increasing inflow of visitors from the Middle East and Africa. While these visitors stand out because of their clothing (Arabs most often wear their traditional clothing while visiting Thailand), and the color of their skin, the number of arrivals only shows a modest increase of visitors from the Middle East and Africa. Appearances can be deceiving.

Numbers of tourist arrivals based on data provided by Department of Tourism, Ministry of Tourism and Sports, Thailand.