Since the pandemic, foreign tourists have spent more money on accommodation and less on food, and Thailand has lost its status as the most visited country in SEA.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand studied the kingdom’s tourism market, revealing that foreign tourists started spending more on accommodation in luxury hotels after the pandemic despite higher airfares. A foreign tourist’s trip to Thailand’s average cost was 50,900 baht.

Key findings from the Thailand tourism market research:

Foreign tourists spend more on luxury hotel accommodations post-pandemic despite higher airfares. Meanwhile, the average trip cost reached 50,900 baht.

There has been a shift in tourist eating habits, with more tourists favouring street food and lower average spending on food and beverages.

Online travel management platforms are increasing, but travel agents and operators still play an essential role in the tourism industry. Therefore, the Tourism Authority of Thailand plans to utilise social media, including TikTok, to attract potential tourists.

The survey showed that tourists’ eating preferences have changed, with more people choosing street food, up from 63 per cent to 77.3 per cent. As a result, the average spending on food and drink has dropped from 5,875 baht in 2019 to 4,094 baht. The study also notes that travellers from the Middle East spend the most.

Online platforms are increasingly used to organise trips, but travel agents still play an essential role. The Tourism Authority of Thailand plans to focus on digital strategies and cooperation with opinion leaders to promote Thailand’s destinations through social media.

Meanwhile, Malaysia has overtaken Thailand to become the most visited country in Southeast Asia.

Malaysia recorded 29 million international tourists in 2023, becoming the most popular destination in Southeast Asia. Thailand led the way before the pandemic.

Thailand ranked second in the region with 28 million foreign tourists, followed by Singapore with 13.6 million. Vietnam ranked fourth with 12.6 million, while Indonesia recorded 11.7 million arrivals. The Philippines and Cambodia attracted 5.4 million foreign tourists each.

In a bid to attract foreign tourists, Southeast Asian countries have been introducing flexible immigration policies since late last year. From 1 December, Malaysia allowed 30-day visa-free entry for mainland Chinese and Indian nationals, similar to Thailand.

From mid-August, Vietnam granted three-month tourist visas to citizens of all countries and territories. It tripled the period of stay in Vietnam to 45 days for citizens of 13 countries unilaterally exempted from visas.

Amid fierce regional competition, the Vietnamese Prime Minister has ordered ministries to consider extending visa exemptions for citizens of some countries in line with bilateral cooperation activities.

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