October tourist visits up 6.1%
Foreign tourist arrivals to Thailand rose in October for the first time this year, helped by a huge spike in Chinese visits and improvements from Asean.
Total arrivals in October totalled 2.18 million, an increase of 6.1% from October last year. For the first 10 months of 2014, arrivals totalled 19.74 million, a decline of 8.7%.
The figures offer some hope to an industry that had been expecting a much faster recovery after seeing dismal numbers in the turbulent months prior to the May 22 coup. Arrivals in June alone fell 24.4% The October figure was also a big improvement from September, when arrivals were off 7% year-on-year.
Arrivals from East Asia, which accounts for 58.4% of all visitors, were up 15.1% from the same month last year. However, the figure for the first 10 months is still down 12.9% from a year earlier, according to data compiled by the Department of Tourism.
Arrivals from China, the country's biggest tourist market with a 23% share of all visitors, jumped 67% in the month, to 501,043 from 299,982 a year earlier. The reason for the large increase was not clear, and Chinese arrivals are still down 11.1% for the January-October period.
Arrivals from Japan (down 10.1% in October), South Korea (-15%) and Taiwan (-8.5%) remained weak. More than any other group, East Asians worry about security, even after the coup brought an end to political unrest and violence.
Tourism industry executives in China have also pointed out that Chinese travellers have shown they like variety, and Thailand might not remain their top choice in Southeast Asia for long. Having tried Thailand once, many are looking to other places such as the Philippines for their next tropical holiday.
Arrivals from Europe last month fell 10.8% from a year ago, but are up 1% for the year to Oct 31, helped by gains from Eastern Europe, a relatively new market. However, visitor numbers from Russia, a key market, plunged 23.2% in October and have shown zero growth for the first 10 months.
Arrivals from the Americas were down 6.6% in October and are down 4.6% for the year. Visitor numbers from Australia fell 7.8% last month and are down 4.5% for the year.
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