International visitor arrivals to Thailand surged 24.4 percent to 8.2 million in the first five months of the year, according to new figures from the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
The figures are somewhat distorted as they compare to a period of civil unrest in 2010 when anti-government protests gathered in the centre of Bangkok, however they do point to a remarkable recovery of the country in the 12 months since the troubles.
The results have caused the TAT to raise its arrivals forecast for 2011 from 15.5 million to 16.8 million. Tourism receipts are expected to total approximately THB600 billion (US$19.6 billion) for 2011.
The kingdom also enjoyed 12 percent growth in foreign visitors in 2010, which not only proved its resilience but also its forward-thinking attitude towards developing new markets, and sport tourism in particular.
In September Thailand will be playing host to the World Travel Awards, which will be hosting its Asia and Australasia Ceremony in Bangkok. The event is expected to attract the who’s who of travel and tourism.
Pushing sporting boundaries
(Bangkok’s incredible Wat Phra Kaeo temple)
Since Beijing successfully hosted the Olympic Games in 2008, Asia has remained in the sport tourism spotlight and its unrivalled sporting infrastructure and integrated approach to leisure tourism has reaped considerable rewards.
Leading analysts predict that the travel industry’s fastest growing sector will post record profits and contribute an astonishing 16 percent of overall travel and tourism receipts by the end of 2011. At a time when some traditional tourism trends are in decline, sport tourism continues to flourish and is set to grow exponentially in the next decade.
(Thailand is becoming a Sport Tourism hub of Asia)
There are many reasons for the sport tourism boom. The continued sportification of society is prompting a seismic shift in tourist patterns. The 21st century is witnessing traditional sun and sea vacations – traditionally the main stay of the industry – being replaced by activity sport related vacations and a new breed of tourists keen to attend an ever increasing calendar of readily-accessible mega sporting events.
WSDE Sport Tourism Expo – the first global exhibition and business forum dedicated to showcasing the $600 billion a year sport tourism industry – was successfully launched last July alongside the final week of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The key buyers, influencers and media met face to face with the destinations leading the field in this dynamic sector and forging the future of sport tourism.
(Thandiwe January-Mclean, Chief Executive, South Africa Tourism, opens the inaugural WSDE in Joburg during the final week of FIFA 2010)
This proven track record has resulted in the announcement that the next edition of WSDE Sport Tourism Expo will take place in Bangkok in 27-29 September 2011 and will mark an important year for Asia, and Thailand in particular.
The PTT Thailand Open, which was first held in 2003, will be returning to the capital, and is expected to feature the biggest names in tennis, and boasting Roger Federer as a back-to-back winner in 2004 and 2005.
The ATP tennis event has become one of Thailand’s big sport tourism attractions, but there is no doubt about the other – golf.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has fast tracked golf as one of the focus sectors for its 2011 marketing strategy. TAT is highlight the country’s world-class golf courses via its “Amazing Thailand Golf Paradise” campaign. While Thailand is heavily marketing its courses and playing facilities, one area of Sport Tourism where the country is particularly thriving is in the golf MICE sector.
This year Thailand is hosting at least six golf industry conferences and exhibitions with the busy calendar crowned by WSDE Sport Tourism Expo 2011 taking place in Bangkok in September.