Strong demand by Chinese travellers for holidays in Thailand continues to boost the Thai tourism industry.
Thanks to Chinese visitors, tourism has become the single biggest source of growth in the Thai economy, which would be locked in decline without it.
But the surge in visitor numbers is also putting visible strain on the country’s travel infrastructure.
The number of Chinese visitors swelled by more than 71 per cent last year, taking growth in overall arrivals to more than 20 per cent. Growth from all other visitor nations was just 8.8 per cent.
As a result, Thailand received a record 29.9m international tourists last year — the most ever to visit an Asian country with the exception of China itself — of which 7.9m came from mainland China, more than a quarter of the total.
Just five years earlier, China accounted for a mere 7.9 per cent of all arrivals.
However, the 2015 growth figures are inflated by a low-base effect: violent political protests in Bangkok scared away many tourists in 2014.
Nevertheless, arrivals growth from China has continued to soar through the year-end peak season, with 29 per cent growth in December and 45 per cent in January.
The influx of Chinese tourists has been a big help to Thailand’s economy, which continues to be squeezed by falling exports, tepid consumption, weak commodity prices, and political instability. International tourism spending accounts for 11.4 per cent of gross domestic product and has become the economy’s most import source of growth.
GDP expanded 2.9 per cent in 2015 and would have grown just 0.6 per cent without the direct impact of foreign tourism spending. Without domestic tourism and the secondary impact from the tourism industry GDP growth would be near zero, according to FT Confidential Research, a research service.
Yet as hotel operators and souvenir hawkers rejoice, the swell in tourist arrivals has tested Thailand’s airports and transportation.
Both international airports in Bangkok have suffered from ever-longer immigration and security queues. At Don Mueang, the smaller of the two airports, travellers complain of very long waits for taxis. Phuket International Airport, the country’s third busiest, has doubled its intended capacity of 6.5m passengers a year, though a long-overdue new terminal may finally open in a few months.
Daniel Gallucci is a researcher covering Thailand at FT
2015年泰国GDP增长了2.9%，若剔除入境外国游客支出的直接影响，则只有0.6%的增长。据英国《金融时报》旗下研究部门《投资参考》(FT Confidential Research)的数据，如果再剔除国内旅游业的影响以及整个旅游业的间接影响，泰国的GDP增长将接近于零。
在曼谷的两个国际机场，都出现了越来越长的入境和安检队伍，让机场饱受压力。在其中规模较小的廊曼机场(Don Mueang International Airport)，游客抱怨等待出租车时间过长。普吉国际机场(Phuket International Airport)是泰国第三繁忙的机场，该机场的设计年客运吞吐量为650万人次，现在实际数字已翻了一番，不过，拖延已久的新航站楼可能会在几个月后最终投入使用。