Tourism powers Thai economic recovery

22nd Feb 2011
Tourism powers Thai economic recovery

Thailand’s economy has emerged from recession, helped by a booming tourism industry and surging exports.

Gross domestic product grew at a quarterly rate of 1.2 percent in the last three months of 2010, according to new statistics from the National Economic and Social Development Board.

Thailand’s economy had contracted by 0.6 percent during the second quarter and by 0.3 percent in the third, placing it into a technical recession.

However the rapid recovery of the tourism economy from the anti-government protests in spring contributed to a strong performance in the final quarter.

The Pacific Asia Travel Association has just released preliminary tourism arrival statistics for Asia and the Pacific for calendar year 2010, showing that Thailand enjoyed a 12 percent hike in annual visitor arrivals.

International arrivals to Southeast Asia region overall were 12 percent higher for 2010, reaching more than 72 million. All destinations in the sub-region set new arrival records, with growth in traffic to Vietnam (+35 percent), Singapore (+20 percent), and the Philippines (+17 percent).

India posted a strong 9 percent increase to set a new record of 5.6 million foreign inbound visits for the year. Sri Lanka (+46 percent), the Maldives (+21 percent), and Nepal (+19 percent) also each set new records in terms of visitor volumes on even stronger growth performances last year.

Northeast Asia posted full-year arrivals growth of 11 percent, reaching a foreign inbound volume of more than 218 million. The strong full-year performances were driven by solid results from Japan (+27 percent), Hong Kong (+22 percent), Mongolia (+20 percent), and Korea (ROK) (+13 percent), with all of these setting new records. Macau posted a strong 2010 year-end result (+15 percent) but is still a little behind the inbound count of 27 million set in 2007.

Growth in the total international visitor inbound count for China was a more modest 6 percent in 2010, however, this translates to an additional 7.3 million additional international arrivals over the 2009 count. Growth in foreign arrivals to China – that is excluding arrivals from Hong Kong, Macau, and Chinese Taipei – was a more robust 19 percent for the year, reaching a volume of more than 26.1 million arrivals, again, another record.

The Pacific recorded an increase in foreign arrivals of 5 percent for calendar year 2010. Australia and New Zealand, with record arrivals of 5.9 million and 2.5 million respectively, reported full-year growth of 5 percent and 3 percent respectively for the year.

Kris Lim, Director, Strategic Intelligence Centre, PATA said: “For the travel and tourism industry in Asia and the Pacific, 2010 has been a very strong year. The results for Asia are particularly impressive, with all three sub-regions recording double-digit growth in arrivals, underpinned by the recovery in the key regional source markets of Japan and Korea (ROK); the continued expansion of the China and India outbound markets; the continually expanding low-cost carrier (LCC) network in Southeast Asia; and a number of global events that took place in Asia such as the Shanghai World Expo in China and the Commonwealth Games in India.

“The economic outlook for 2011 remains broadly positive but growth in GDP and trade worldwide is expected to moderate, following a robust recovery last year. The USA and Europe remain relatively weak, which means the bulk of the inbound growth for Asia Pacific could be intra-regional going forward,” added Lim.

Thailand’s Sport Tourism Boom
The end of the year saw the opening of a groundbreaking sporting academy in Phuket that has set Thailand’s stall out as Asia’s hub of sporting excellence.

The Phuket International Academy Sports and Leisure Club (PIASLC) is a leading-edge development, which is poised to become the continent’s pre-eminent competition, training and event complex.

Combining a brilliant location with world-class facilities, it is already attracting interest from respected global sporting institutions and international corporations.

The opening signals Asia’s willingness to embrace Sport Tourism – an industry worth $600 billion a year and growing.
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.

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.

This proven track record has resulted in the announcement that the next edition of WSDE 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) revealed earlier this year that golf will be one of the focus sectors for its 2011 marketing strategy.  TAT will highlight the country’s world-class golf courses via its “Amazing Thailand Golf Paradise” campaign. While

Thailand will market its courses and playing facilities, one area of Sport Tourism where the country is particularly thriving is in the golf MICE sector.

In 2011 Thailand will host at least six golf industry conferences and exhibitions with the busy calendar crowned by WSDE 2011 taking place in Bangkok in September.


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