Updated on November 6, 2023 by Axel Hernborg

Axel Hernborg

The Southeast Asian nation of Thailand is surrounded by Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, the Andaman Sea, and the Gulf of Thailand. The country is divided into various separate areas, and each has a unique geography. Natural forests, including monsoon and rainforests, encompass around 25% of Thailand. Most of these are constructed from hardwood trees.

Tourists can also see bamboo and coconut palms all around the nation. Thailand has done a fantastic job of maintaining its natural scenery, and it is home to many parks. The various monuments located all around Thailand serve as a vivid reminder of the country’s rich cultural past.

The country has much more to mention and explore. But here we will talk about some of the top trends and statistics in the Thailand tourism industry.

Covid-19 and Tourism Industry

Like many other countries, Thailand’s economy was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic last year. The country’s GDPfell by over6% in 2020 and many workers, especially those related to the tourismsector, lost their jobs.

But fortunately, now in 2022, recoveryappears to be on the horizon for Thailand. Assuming virus recurrence, slow long-term growth, muted world recovery, and minimal changes to global tourism strategies, Thailand’stourism sector could only recover to pre-crisis levels by 2024.

Pre- and Post-Pandemic trends and Statistics

  • In 2019, Thailand ranked eighth globally in international tourist arrivals.
  • In 2019, China was a key source market for international tourist arrivals.
  • Thailand recorded a high of 40 millionvisitors in 2019, with the top three spending categories for inbound visitors that year being accommodation (28%), shopping (24% of spending), and food and beverages (21%). 
  • The Thai tourism sector created 36 million jobs between 2014 and 2019.
  • In 2019, Bangkok ranked 1st surpassing Paris and London in Mastercard’s list of Global Destination Cities Index 2019 with 22.78 million visitors.
  • A report published in 2018 showed that 6 to 7% of GDP comes from the tourism sector.
  • In 2018, revenue was 2.5 trillion Thai Baht, of which 1.6 trillion came from overseas markets and 870 billion domestic ones.
  • Phuket was 14th with 9.89 million visitors and Pattaya 15th with 9.44 million visitors.
  • In 2019, Thai medical centers were serving increasing numbers of Chinese medical tourists in tandem with increasing overall Chinese tourism.
  • As of 2019, with 64 hospitals, Thailand is currently among the top 10 medical tourism destinations in the world.
  • Gastronomy was Thailand’s fourth-largest tranche (20%) of tourism income, after accommodation (29%), transport (27%), and shopping and souvenirs (24%).
  • 2020 saw only a total of 6,702,396 tourists, almost all arriving in the first three months of the year.
  • From March 2020 to the end of August 2020 no tourists were allowed in. In the last three months of 2020, a total of 10,822 tourists arrived under very special stringent conditions.
  • From the second quarter of 2020, till the third quarter of 2021, hardly any visitors came to Thailand. They estimated the loss of income for the country at 75+ billion U.S. dollars.
  • A total of 20,172 and 20,275 tourists arrived in Thailand during the first quarter and second quarter of 2021 respectively. This was a drop of 99.4 % compared to 2020.
  • The last quarter of 2021 saw some promising results. A total of 342,024 visitors arrived, with no less than 230,497 arrivals in December alone.
  • Thailand is aiming for 5 million to 15 million foreign tourist arrivals in 2022 as the country further eases travel restrictions.
  • The country has removed on-arrival COVID-19 tests from May 1, 2022, the latest measure aimed at reviving its battered tourism industry.
  • According to Bank of Thailand Governor Sethaput Suthiwartnarueput, the Thailand tourism industry, however, may not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2026.

Contribution of Tourism in Thailand

  •  The contribution of travel and tourism to the employment of Thailand went up by 2.35 % from 5,990.6 thousand persons in 2018 to 6,131.1 thousand persons in 2019. Since the 14.77 % drop in 2014, the contribution of travel and tourism to employment rocketed by 25.29 % in 2019.
  • From 2017 to 2019, revenue from domestic travel amounted to 35.8 % of total revenue gained from tourism.
  • The National Economic and Social Development Council stated beginning in February 2019 that Tourism accounted for 18.4 % of the GDP of Thailand.
  • Thailand has 1,215 agritourist sites nationwide. About two million Thai and foreign tourists travelled to agritourist sites in 2016, with Thai tourists likely to spend about 1.86 billion baht and foreign tourists about 12 billion baht.
  • Business travel spending accounted for 23.4% of the travel and tourism industry’s contribution to GDP in 2016, which was valued cumulatively at USD 1.1 trillion for the year.
  • In 2020, employment in the tourism sector accounted for around 11.6% of Thailand’s total employment. In that same period, the size of tourism employment in Thailand amounted to approximately 4.37 million.
  • The contribution of travel and tourism to employment (% of GDP) in Thailand rose by 1.80 % from 15.9 % in 2018 to 16.2 % in 2019.

Tourism Industry Insight

  • The MICE industry has five officially designated MICE cities: Bangkok, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Phuket, and Khon Kaen.
  • Medical tourism makes up 0.4% of Thailand’s GDP and generated THB 107 billion.
  • Medical and health tourism are key components of the market strategy plan of 2017 to increase the numbers of tourism and spending in Thailand.
  • The average length of stay in Thailand is relatively low with only 2.8 nights.
  • The country has established domestic hotel groups with a high degree of brand recognition, such as Centara Hotels and Resorts, Dusit International, and Minor International.
  • New forms of accommodation, such as Airbnb, receive a higher average length of stay of 7 nights. However, the occupancy rate is significantly lower than hotels.
  • Bangkok International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world. The airport’s capacity will be enhanced from 45 million to 60 million passengers annually.
  • Transport Ministry presented an ambitious plan to invest THB 275 billion in expanding and repairing the country’s road network. The plan includes the expansion of 45 highways from two to four lanes.
  • The country has seven international ports and 242 domestic ports.
  • About 100,000 cruise visitors are recorded per year and major cruise liner companies have shown their interest to use the ports of Thailand as their maritime tourism hub.
  • Thailand’s international openness policy to attract foreign direct investment (Eastern Economic Corridor: ECC) and the smart visa initiated by the Board of Investment (BOI) is helping attract more multinational corporations, high-skilled manpower, and investors to provide new opportunities for businesses in the tourism sector to tap into such as business events and family segments.
  • For infrastructure connectivity, the 873 -kilometer China-Thailand high-speed railway project is in progress, which is expected to operate in 2026, and will attract Chinese and ASEAN tourists.
  • In a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha, an economic task force approved extending support for the domestic travel industry to September from May 2022, including a 40% government subsidy on another 1 million room nights.
  • According to government spokesperson Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, tourists are expected to spend between 630 billion baht ($18.35 billion) and 1.2 trillion baht in 2022.

Other Tourist-related Trends and Facts

  • In recent years, a number of elephant sanctuaries have been set up, in which elephants are free to roam aroundwithout being tortured or kept in chains. Instead of riding the elephants, visitors can feed them or bathe them in the river.
  • Chiang Mai is one of the best places to have a close encounter with elephants.
  • Thailand is a cheap country to live in and travel around.
  • A large number of international arrivals are backpacking budget travellers who get by on less than US$900 for a month in Thailand.
  • One of the most important Thai festivals is the Light Festival (Loy Krathong) held in November every year alongside the Chiang Mai Yi Peng Lantern Festival, which is famous for thousands of lanterns flying into the night sky.
  • Thailand is a paradise for shopaholics. Shopping in Thailand is ideal for both the big spenders and the penny pinchers.
  • Thai people are some of the politest and most well-mannered people one will ever meet, and this is why so many people love visiting Thailand.
  • Apart from elephants, Thailand is home to more than 10% of the world’s animals, as natural forests cover approximately 25% of Thailand’s total land area. 
  • Khao Sok National Park is perfect for birdwatchers, and for spotting some rare apes like the white-handed gibbon.
  • Thailand’s national sport is Muay Thai or Thai Boxing, and it is the most popular sport in the country and is one of the top internationally-known fighting sports.
  • People visit Thailand due to its natural and cultural beauty, and also for its well-developed tourism facilities and convenient travel.
  • Chiang MaiChiang Rai, Mai Hai Song, and Pai in the north are some of the most popular tourist destinations for rural adventures.