Thailand Set For International Rebound

Credit: Gumpanat Thavankitdumrong / Alamy Stock Photo

Thailand is gearing up to receive as many as 30 million foreign tourists this year as airline capacity continues to return.

The country welcomed about 11.5 million foreign visitors in 2022, the highest number since COVID-19 emerged and topping previous projections of 10 million.

Initial forecasts for 2023 were for about 20 million—half of 2019 levels—but this has since increased by 50% following the reopening of China.

“The Chinese market was a major tourist segment in Thailand, accounting for 10.9 million passengers or 27.6% of all international tourists in 2019,” Airports of Thailand (AOT) executive VP of business development and marketing Paweena Jariyathitipong tells Routes. “Their spending per passenger was also the highest of any country.”

She said that AOT expects passenger volumes to recover the fastest from tier-one cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chengdu, adding that Chinese carriers are already looking to return to markets they operated before the pandemic.

Although the rebound back to pre-pandemic levels will not be immediate, Thailand’s government hopes that seven to 10 million Chinese tourists will visit the Southeast Asia nation by air during 2023.

In Chiang Mai (CNX), which is hosting Routes Asia 2023, capacity during Q1 2023 will be approximately 1.3 million seats, representing an increase of 18% on Q4 2022. The lion’s share of the growth is being driven by an expanding international schedule, which will see some 250,000 departure seats during the first three months of the year, up from 97,000 in the previous quarter. Chinese carriers China Eastern Airlines, Juneyao Airlines and Spring Airlines are among the airlines to have reinstated flights to the northern Thailand city.

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.