Thailand’s tourism is on the rise, but who’s visiting the most?

Chinese account for the highest proportion of travelers to Thailand. Source:

ACCORDING to Thailand’s Tourism and Sports Ministry, the kingdom expects to see 37.55 million visitors pass through the borders in 2018, a 6 percent increase from 2017.

With this rise in visitors, the ministry is also expecting an increase in the total revenue tourism creates. In 2018, Thailand hopes to generate THB3 trillion (US$95 million) in tourism, with an estimated THB2 trillion (US$64 million) being generated by international visitors.

In 2017, Thailand surpassed its tourism predictions of 2016, from 35 million visitors to 35.38 million, which was an increase of 8.77 percent. However, this year the ministry is hoping for an even higher growth rate than previous annual forecasts.

So who is driving this growth?

A recent study by the Thailand Research Fund revealed a consistent theme of Chinese tourists making up the highest percentage of international visitors to Thailand, year on year.

The study also found that as technology is enabling free, upwardly mobile travel, Chinese tourists are no longer using package and group tours, and instead, 89 percent are booking independently from agents.

According to the study, most Chinese visitors to Thailand are there to explore the kingdom’s natural and culturally significant sites, including temples and shrines. Visiting spas also featured heavily on their travel itineraries.

The study delved into discovering what the Chinese tourist’s favorite menu choices are – they include popular Thai fare such as tom yum goong, phad Thai, seafood, and mango sticky rice.

Other purchases contributing to the growing tourism economy include dried fruits, clothes, cosmetics, medicines and gifts.

The number of female Chinese visitors to Thailand is also growing.

As the nation progressively shakes off its reputation of being more a sex-tourism destination, it will be able to attract more international visitors and grow its economy to potentially surpass its forecast on international arrivals.