Thailand is without doubt one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, but at the same time the Thai government is aware of significant improvement opportunity for the future development of tourism in Thailand.

The country’s tourism authority TAT strives to be internationally competitive which will undoubtedly enable the country to earn more money and thus develop the industry so that it is far more sustainable.

As a result of these objectives, the National Tourism Development Plan for the years 2012-2016 was drawn up. It won cabinet approval on 15 February 2011 and paves the way for significant upgrades to Thailand’s tourism infrastructure.

The main objective of this plan is to ensure that the country’s moves up the world rankings by at least 15 places and therefore it will be among one of the top 5 destinations in Asia.  The plan also intends to increase tourism income by at least 5% over the next five years. Expected tourist numbers for 2011 currently stand at between 16.5-16.6 million.

 There are five strategies which will be put in place to ensure that the income is increased.

The first strategy aims to develop and improve infrastructure and logistics throughout the country for both domestic and international tourism.

The second strategy involves the development and revamping of tourism sites as well as the improvement of a number of rules and regulations. This is hoped to boost the country’s ability to accept higher tourist numbers.

The third strategy will see a great deal of importance being placed on the creative economy. This is also the focus in the National Economic and Social Development Plan, 2012-2016 and will see the launching of a number of new products and services as well as investment opportunities being offered. Human resource development will also play a key role.

The fourth strategy is all about Thailand’s international image. The country’s image to the rest of the world is extremely important as it is this which will encourage people to book holidays here or simply turn them off visiting.

Finally, the fifth strategy involves the co-operation of the public and civil sectors and all local organisations involved in tourism management.

The current situation regarding tourism is very promising.  A report presented by the Ministry of Tourism and Sport told of a steady increase in tourism from 2005 to 2010. The increase was on average 7.5% a year and increased from 11.5 million in 2005 to 15.8 million in 2010. During this time, Thailand hosted a number of international events, such as the Royal Flora Ratchaphruek and the World Sumo Championships.

The country was also awarded a number of tourism awards including being the best destination with regards to value for money.

Thailand’s tourism earnings over the past five years grew on average by 11.9%  from 367.4 billion Baht in 2005 to nearly 586 billion Baht in 2010.

Most of the income during this period came from Europe, however a large amount also came from East Asia, the US, South Asia and the Middle East. In terms of tourist arrivals, Malaysia saw the most tourists arriving, closely followed by China, Japan and the UK. Korea, India, Australia, the US and France also had many arrivals. 

The arrival numbers in Thailand are set to improve further throughout 2011, even before the National Tourism Development plan is implemented.