Thailand has a tourism problem that’s different from other countries; there’s too many of them. The country’s government is getting concerned that a near doubling of visitor numbers, to 60 million by 2030 could mean trouble.
Most national tourism bodies would love to have that sort of a problem, but the Thais are worried that these sorts of numbers will put their infrastructure under pressure and so are agitating for more spending on roads and airports.
They’re also worried that tourism is becoming too big a part of their economy. Officially, the Thai Government thinks the sector accounts for about 17.7 per cent of gross domestic product, but some international estimates put the number as high as 20 per cent, a percentage that other countries can only dream about but which could have a dramatic impact if things go wrong.
Political turmoil some years ago led to the airports being closed and thousands of holidaymakers left stranded. At the time, it also shredded the country’s reputation, but to its credit, it has staged a remarkable come back.
Those running their tourism industry may now be called victims of their own success, but they’re also pretty smart. Their current plan is to position Thailand as a venue for ‘speciality holidays’ and so they’re hosting several high-profile international events in fields as diverse as motorcycle racing and gastronomy.
We’d like to think that we Brits have given their Tourism officials such a giant headache, but the reality is that the upsurge in numbers is down to increasingly affluent (and so more keen to travel abroad) Chinese. Holidaymakers from mainland China accounted for almost half the rise in visitor arrivals from 15.9m in 2010 to 32.6m last year.