The strong Thai baht and a slowing Chinese economy derailed forecasts of achieving the much expected 40-million international arrivals target in 2019. However, the country comforted its lead as ASEAN largest tourism destination last year.
It was good news for Thai travellers but bad news for the tourism industry. Symbolically, the Thai baht broke the exchange rate of 30 baht for one US dollar as 2019 came to a close. Its official exchange rate on December 30 reached 29.94 baht for one dollar and broke a new record of 29.75 baht for a dollar on December 31. The strong exchange rate is one of the major factors to a slowdown in tourist arrivals last year.
According to first estimates from the Ministry of Tourism, the number of foreign arrivals during January to November this year stood at 35.87 million — an increase of 4.44% year-on-year — and generated 1.74 trillion baht in income, up by 3.67% from the year before. The last counting as the year is getting to its end was an average of 140,000 tourists entering each day, which would then put total arrivals for the year between 39.7 to 39.8 million, a growth of 4.5% over 2018. Tourism remains a top earner for the country, generating 1.96 trillion Baht , equivalent to US$65.5 billion.
On December 28, the Kingdom celebrated its 39 millionth tourist who landed from Russia. Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn spread his optimism vision by telling that Thailand remains one of the all-time favourite destinations of global travellers.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand expects that the magical 40-million mark will be largely overpassed in 2020. The agency forecasts the number of tourists will reach 40.8 million in 2020, an increase of 2.5%, which will contribute 2.02 trillion baht to the economy, up 3% year-on-year. The growth in arrivals would be stimulated by a stronger number of Chinese travellers as economic perspectives for 2020 seem to improve and as new flights are planned between both countries.
Thailand tourism will however need to adjust further to the strong Baht. Various monetary institutions see the local currency continuing strengthening and reach its peak during the second quarter of the year before getting (eventually) weaker.