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20 Jan, 2012

Post-floods Thai Tourism Surged 46% in Dec 2011, Arrivals Hit Record 19 mln

BANGKOK: After slumping in October and November 2011 due to the flooding crisis, visitor arrivals to Thailand rebounded by 46.2% in December 2011. The odds-defying surge allowed Thailand to end the year with a record 19.09 million arrivals, up 19.8% over 2010.

The release of the final figures again show how the underlying strengths of Thailand have helped make it one of the top global destinations in terms of brand-image, marketing prowess and value for money.

The rebound also proves right a forecast by Travel Impact Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil that it would not take long for Thailand’s “Teflon tourism industry” to make a post-floods comeback.

One country, Malaysia, is well past the two-million arrivals mark. Four countries are in the one-million-plus bracket: China, Japan and two new entrants to the club, Russia and Korea.

Arrivals from India came close to crossing the one million mark and probably would have done so had it not been for the flooding.

Arrivals were above one million in each of the 12 months, even in the flood-hit months of October and November.  In fact, the figures show that arrivals fell only marginally from 1.48 million in September to 1.42 million in October and 1.2 million in November.

These figures indicate that the tourism industry for the country as a whole did not fare as badly as is being made out, and probably does not justify all the ongoing handwringing. On the contrary, the industry has a lot to be proud of – given the scale of the natural disaster, the slump in arrivals could have been a lot worse.

The figures also show how markets reacted to the flooding.

Most of the declines in arrivals came in the high-volume markets of Asia, such as Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.  Most are short-stay, first-time package tourists heading for Bangkok, which was worst hit by the decline.

Long haul markets such as Europe and the United States were far less affected, with comparatively smaller decreases and in some cases even increases between October and November.

This was because most of the European visitors were heading for the winter-season holidays in Phuket, which has emerged as a strong secondary destination.

Growing direct aviation access to Phuket from source-markets means reduced reliance on the capital city. It also builds a case for Thailand to push ahead with development of more secondary destinations such as Chiang Mai.

Detailed stats and analysis are available upon request. As it involved a fair amount of work by Travel Impact Newswire, the detailed analysis is available at a cost of 300 baht for readers in Thailand and US$20 for readers outside Thailand. Pls click here to contribute.