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8 Jan, 2014

As Thailand Beats the Crisis, ASEAN Edges Close to 100 million mark for 2013

Imtiaz Muqbil & John Koldowski

Bangkok- In spite of being hit by political disruptions in November 2013, Thailand still recorded 2.39 million arrivals that month, up 11.9% over November 2012. In total, the figure for Jan-November 2013 was 24.13 million arrivals, up 21.1%% over the same period of 2012. Final figures for 2013 will be out in a few weeks but are projected at more than 26 million.

With the ASEAN Tourism Forum due to be held later this month in Kuching, Malaysia, the good news is that the strong Thai showing will help the 10-country bloc record an estimated 98 million arrivals in 2013, tantalizingly close to crossing the 100 million mark for the first time.

The Thai travel industry paused for breath when the political protests began in November. But the impact of these has been largely offset by several counter-measures that have proven Thailand’s expertise in crisis-management, adding to its already well-known reputation for marketing and brand-building.

Major reasons for the growth are as follows:

Although numerous cancellations were received for events and leisure trips to Bangkok, the upcountry destinations reported robust business. Many tour operators were happy to offer Plan B tour programmes that diverted their clients away from Bangkok, just to be on the safe side. Instead, guests were offered alternatives within Thailand itself. Bangkok’s loss was upcountry destinations’ gain.

The key Asia-Pacific source-markets of China, the ASEAN countries, India and Russia remained growing strongly, providing the bulk of visitor arrivals. The Asia-Pacific region (including South Asia and Australia/New Zealand) is now generating a whopping 60%+ market share, and climbing steadily. ASEAN countries have overtaken Europe in terms of market share.

In this context, the two ASEAN countries now in the top-league of visitor arrivals are Laos and Vietnam. Laos is set to cross the one million mark, thanks to the impact of border-crossers over the four friendship bridges spanning the Mekong river.  That will make it the seventh country to generate more than one million annual visitor arrivals for Thailand. Vietnam is growing strongly. As the nearest “exotic” GMS destination, Thailand has a special appeal for Vietnamese leisure travellers.

Visa-free and visa-on-arrival access plus low-cost airline accessibility are the main reasons for the continued growth. However, overland border-crossings will have a major impact in future. Bangkok will remain a major distribution point for visitors to Thailand, but upcountry destinations such as Chiang Mai, Samui, Northeast Thailand and, in future, points along the border with Myanmar will gain considerable ground.

Thailand has made extensive use of social media as a crisis-management tool. All through the crisis, the TAT pushed out almost daily situation update reports to the media, travel agents and the trade associations to prove that the protests were causing minimal disruptions and nowhere as dangerous as being portrayed via TV images. These messages were then further pushed out by the travel trade community, including the various airlines serving Thailand, to their guests, clients and passengers. They played a major role in reassuring visitors that the country was almost entirely open for business, except for a handful of areas.

The bloc of economies that collectively form the ASEAN Community are likely to see their aggregate international inbound arrivals reach an historic peak in 2013. Initial estimates suggest an inbound count of around 98 million for calendar year 2013, based on arrivals to date and best projections forward. This suggests growth of ten percent over 2012 and would add more than nine million additional arrivals to the collective inbound count.

In actual volume, Thailand leads the way with an expected gain of close to 4.3 million additional international arrivals in 2013; an increase that accounts for just under half (46%) of the expected additional arrivals into the ASEAN economies.

 

CY 2013 est Annual Change
Destination (mns) % Volume (‘000)
Brunei 0.226 8.1 16,851
Cambodia 4.157 16.0 573,176
Indonesia 8.620 7.2 575,514
Lao PDR 3.764 13.0 433,718
Malaysia 25.747 2.9 714,456
Myanmar 0.812 36.9 218.719
Philippines 4.696 9.9 423,066
Singapore 15.485 6.9 994,272
Thailand 26.643 19.2 4,288,894
Vietnam 7.580 15.1 994,619
ASEAN 97.731 10.4 9,233,285

 

In terms of annual percentage growth, Myanmar one again tops the ASEAN growth list followed by Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam – all of which easily outstripped the expected ASEAN average growth rate of 10%.

It is going to be a very interesting ASEAN Tourism Forum overall, setting the stage for a major shift in attention towards managing the growth and the various changes to come with the advent of the ASEAN community in 2015.

 

Ministry of Tourism and Sports,Thailand
International  Tourist  Arrivals  to  Thailand By  Nationality (November 2013)
2013 2012 % change 2013/2012
East  Asia 1,399,653 1,205,199 16.13
ASEAN 699,813 590,108 18.59
Brunei 1,317 951 38.49
Cambodia 51,622 41,523 24.32
Indonesia 53,241 46,310 14.97
Laos 110,651 79,617 38.98
Malaysia 277,283 250,897 10.52
Myanmar 14,351 11,746 22.18
Philippines 31,791 26,187 21.4
Singapore 93,462 88,136 6.04
Vietnam 66,095 44,741 47.73
China 355,103 294,518 20.57
Hong Kong 46,063 38,981 18.17
Japan 134,922 135,635 -0.53
Korea 119,802 109,837 9.07
Taiwan 38,709 31,960 21.12
Others 5,241 4,160 25.99
Europe 614,971 593,273 3.66
Austria 9,130 8,620 5.92
Belgium 10,036 9,939 0.98
Denmark 10,470 14,039 -25.42
Finland 10,695 15,740 -32.05
France 56,560 54,317 4.13
Germany 74,322 71,174 4.42
Ireland 5,191 5,039 3.02
Italy 18,561 17,625 5.31
Netherlands 19,386 18,399 5.36
Norway 11,360 13,389 -15.15
Russia 197,258 175,279 12.54
Spain 12,289 10,619 15.73
Sweden 23,016 33,464 -31.22
Switzerland 19,742 20,326 -2.87
United  Kingdom 82,763 79,707 3.83
East  Europe 39,302 33,363 17.8
Others 14,890 12,234 21.71
The  Americas 113,444 103,701 9.4
Argentina 1,820 1,258 44.67
Brazil 3,774 2,639 43.01
Canada 22,458 20,441 9.87
USA 80,282 75,529 6.29
Others 5,110 3,834 33.28
South  Asia 113,378 108,667 4.34
Bangladesh 5,952 5,878 1.26
India 89,262 86,714 2.94
Nepal 1,889 1,804 4.71
Pakistan 6,776 5,537 22.38
Sri  Lanka 6,377 6,003 6.23
Others 3,122 2,731 14.32
Oceania 92,350 83,490 10.61
Australia 81,693 74,465 9.71
New  Zealand 10,238 8,721 17.39
Others 419 304 37.83
Middle  East 49,855 38,225 30.43
Egypt 3,177 1,753 81.23
Israel 11,991 9,948 20.54
Kuwait 4,831 3,457 39.75
Saudi  Arabia 1,426 873 63.34
U.A.E. 7,684 6,693 14.81
Others 20,746 15,501 33.84
Africa 15,589 10,995 41.78
S.Africa 5,409 4,837 11.83
Others 10,180 6,158 65.31
Grand  Total 2,399,240 2,143,550 11.93
Source  of  Data : Immigration  Bureau, Police  Department.
  • Ronald

    Great to see two of the, arguably, most engaged observers of Thai tourism grouped under one byline, sharing information that people in the industry can actually use and profit from and presented in a way that is objective, non-partisan and accurate. This could be a harbinger of great things to come, finally statistics that can be trusted and verified and insights into this valuable sector that will educate and inform.