2008 arrivals: Not as bad as expected
Overland arrivals in December shored up 2008 statistics to reveal the slightest of declines overall.
Thailand's official arrivals tally for 2008 showed a marginal decline of 0.97%, better than earlier estimates that put the decline at around 1.5% over the year.
The Ministry of Tourism and Sports' Office of Tourism Development released the official tourist arrivals statistics for 2008, earlier this week, reporting 14,323,221 trips, or a marginal decline of 0.97%, when compared with 14,464,228 trips in 2007.
In December alone, the ministry claimed there were 1,156,951 inbound trips. It appears to be a dramatic reversal when compared with consistent drops in monthly arrivals from August through to November, when Bangkok's airport closed down for 10 days (late November to early December.)
It was probably due to the inclusion of overland arrivals from Malaysia at border checkpoints in southern Thailand and at checkpoints with Laos, in Northeast Thailand. While such trips are not relevant to national tourism revenue, they do technically comply with the 24-hour definition of what constitutes a tourist. They are categorised as visiting friends and relatives and usually within a 50 km radius of the border.
The OTD report also appears to contradict a previous estimate by the Tourism Authority of Thailand that claimed the airport closures, from the evening of 25 November until the morning of 5 December, resulted in a 38.23% decline in arrivals.TAT believed December would deliver 940,000 trips compared with 1,363,900 in December 2007.
Based on that estimate it placed the 2008 total at 14,246,586, representing a drop of 1.50%.
TAT based its estimate on primary data from the Immigration Office at Suvarnabhumi Airport which reported a 30.82% drop in arrivals from 1,066,695 (December 2007) to 649,880, last December.
According to the OTD' figures for 2008, the top five arrivals by nationality were: Malaysia (1,791,227); Japan (1,128,695); Korea (872,752); UK (812,057) and China (807,617).
An increase was reported from Vietnam, up 40.03% from 237,672 to 332,803. Trips from Laos improved 20.87% from 513,701 to 620,890. United of Arab Emirates increased 19.39% from 74,957 to 89,489 and Malaysia increased 16.31% from 1,540,080 to 1,791,227.In contrast, trips from Saudi Arabia dropped 36.03% from 22,483 to 14,383.
By region, East Asia supplied the highest arrivals at 7,484,494, even though it represented a drop of 1.67%when compared with7,611,931, in 2007.Regions that supplied more tourists were: Oceania +2.47% to 782,960; Middle East +1.30% to 441,759 and Europe +0.23% to 3,914,279.
In December, Malaysia supplied 194,346 arrivals, the UK 81,130, Japan 64,157, Sweden 63,706, Laos 59,493 and Australia 53,519.
Malaysia and Laos were the only two markets that increased in December. Malaysia gained 6.81% from 181,948 in 2007 and Laos 24.92% from 47,622.