This year's World Tourism Competitiveness Report has ranked Thailand as the ninth best tourism economy in the Asia Pacific region, third in Southeast Asia and 43rd in the overall world rankings.
The research was carried out by the World Economic Forum and assessed the economies of 140 countries from around the world by analysing the steps they are taking to develop an attractive and profitable tourism sector.
Singapore and Malaysia edged Thailand from the top spot, while several other Southeast Asian nations ranked below the Land of Smiles, including Indonesia, Brunei, Vietnam, the Philippines and Cambodia.
Despite falling two places since the last report two years ago, the Kingdom's Top 3 position shows an unwavering resilience to the natural disasters and political difficulties it has faced in recent years.
Thailand's government has made the tourism sector a priority by investing in successful market campaigns and ensuring that prices remain competitive with other countries in the region.
According to the report, the friendly attitude of local Thai communities towards tourists is an important factor in attracting more visitors to the country. The report also praised the performance of the private tourism sector and the country's readiness to accept a wide spectrum of international visitors.
Thailand is home to an incredible array of world class accommodation and also boasts some of the world's most stunning natural scenery â€” from the northern mountainous region of Chiang Mai to the internationally celebrated beaches of Phuket and Koh Samui. The country's range of cultural and historical attractions also has huge appeal to visitors, whether they are younger independent travellers, honeymooners and newlyweds or families looking for a relaxed but fascination holiday together.
Thailand's impressive marine landscape further adds to its appeal, with the islands and reefs in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea combining to make the country one of the world's premier destinations for snorkelling and diving enthusiasts. The island of Koh Tao is only second to the Australian Barrier Reef when it comes to in the amount of PADI diving licenses issued there each year, while over on the West coast, unspoiled archipelagos like the Similan Islands attract experienced and novice marine enthusiasts for their stunning underwater marines capes and teeming marine life.
The WTC report does suggest that despite the recent emphasis the government has placed on the tourism industry, improvements could still be made to attract more long term international investment. Researchers draw attention to the length of time it takes to start a business in Thailand and also the restrictive foreign ownership laws that limit foreign property purchases.
Given the widespread flooding that caused havoc for the Thai nation last year, the report also recommends that greater emphasis be placed by the government on issues concerning environmental sustainability. Some measures have already been implemented, but many local commentators feel they are not yet sufficient to avoid a similar disaster when the monsoon is another heavy one.
Despite such concerns, Thailand is expecting 24.5 million tourists to visit its myriad natural and cultural attractions this year, up 2.2 million from last year's successfully reached target. What's more, the department of tourism aims to attract 30 million visitors to the country by 2015, the projected year for the economic integration of ASEAN nations.