The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is the latest global body to acknowledge Thailand’s growing popularity by moving the country up one notch from last year, from #12 to #11.
Given her current momentum, Thailand could well make the Top 10 by international tourism receipts for 2012, placing it in the stratospheric league of world leaders such as last year’s Top 5: the US, Spain, France, China, and Italy. These figures reinforce Thailand’s evolving presence among world tourism powerhouses, as well as underscoring tourism’s vital role in the country’s economy.
Regionally, Thailand reigns supreme, well above its Southeast Asian competitors Malaysia at #14, and Singapore at #15. Rounding out the Top 15 are Turkey at #12 and Austria at #13. Thailand is now taking aim at unseating #10 ranked Hong Kong, whose tourism receipts were less than US$1 billion more than Thailand’s in 2011. Globally, tourism is recovering from the dire economic events of 2009, and new records are being made in numerous countries, albeit on a lesser scale than Thailand’s. UNWTO secretary-general Taleb Rifai is optimistic about the results, noting that the past two years have shown healthy demand for tourism out of many markets, although the economic recovery has been uneven.
Europe holds the largest share of global tourism receipts in absolute numbers (45%), which reached $463 billion last year, followed by Asia and the Pacific (28%), the Americas (19%), the Middle East (4%) and Africa (3%). The world's overall international tourism receipts exceeded $1 trillion for the first time last year, up from $928 billion in 2010, the UNWTO said.
Strikingly, Thailand was one of only five international destinations whose tourism receipts grew by more than $5 billion in 2011 in absolute terms, as income rose $6.2 billion on 2010 to a new record of $26.3 billion. This comes after a $4 billion rise from 2009 to 2010. The other four members of the “$5 billion-bump club” were the US, Spain, France and Hong Kong.Furthermore, Thailand's Tourism Ministry said international arrivals in 2011 surged 19.8% to reach 19.1 million. Obviously, Thailand is doing something right in the global tourism marketplace to produce these impressive numbers and rankings, another example of which was Chiang Mai being ranked the #2 destination in Asia by a major TripAdvisor poll this month.
Thailand has come a long way in the past decade not only on the tourism front, but in terms of major economic developments. This is clearly being made manifest in all these polls, statistics, and rankings, with the future looking to play out most impressively indeed for this special Southeast Asian Kingdom.