European arrivals are on the decline in Thailand. This is serious — and sad. For what is the point of a kingdom blessed with powdery sand beaches chasing more tourists and getting less revenue in the end?
The math doesn't make sense. Thailand in the first half of this year welcomed 5.65 million Chinese tourists spending $10 billion (311 billion baht) and 3.61 million European travelers spending $8.5 billion (259 billion baht), figures from Thailand's tourism ministry show. That means there are fewer Europeans than Chinese, but their spending works out to be $2,358 per person compared with $1,770 per Chinese visitor.
No destination should be against Chinese tourists, and they certainly aren't to blame for a fall in European arrivals to Thailand. Neither is the baht's appreciation the only cause of the decline, as our story below shows. The other elephant in the room is unsustainable development, not just concerning the environment but a thriving ecosystem of travel businesses, and it's clear Thailand is losing some luster. Yet it blames everything — Brexit, baht, trade war, and every other external factor — but itself.
Thailand must look at internal shortcomings as the kingdom celebrates 60 years of tourism next year. Signs are that it is. Tourism Authority of Thailand's deputy governor Tanes Petsuwan, speaking at a networking function at the recent World Travel Market, admitted, "We see a clear need to refresh our value proposition and expand our range of product offerings … the competition is becoming more intense."
He also emphasized the importance of responsible tourism and that the authorities are taking "the next steps towards a sustainable Thailand."
A wake-up call is good for Thailand, which still has lots to offer.