Thailand saw a tourism deficit with Japan for the first time during the first half of 2023. From January to June, 497,700 Thai tourists visited Japan, while only 326,347 Japanese nationals arrived in Thailand.
This is a significant change from 2019, when Thailand welcomed 1.88 million tourists from Japan and 1.78 million travelers from South Korea. In that year, 1.3 million Thai tourists traveled to Japan.
Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the slow outbound Japan market was largely due to the sluggish Japanese economy, particularly the weak yen, which is discouraging people from spending money abroad.
However, he said that as Japan had only just ended its border control measures on May 8, this also contributed to a sluggish flow of tourists as many wanted to avoid the complicated procedures, especially those who had not been vaccinated.
“The overall number of outbound Japanese shrank. Not only Thailand felt the impact. Meanwhile, as Japan has been the favourite destination of Thai tourists, when the borders were reopened and their spending power became more valuable due to the currency situation, Thailand saw a tourism deficit for the first time,” he said.
Mr Yuthasak said that TAT is planning to hold Thailand festivals in four cities in four continents: New York, Barcelona, Osaka, and Sydney. The agency is also preparing to open two new offices in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, and the US city of Chicago.
“We hope to increase market share to 15% when the market recovers, which hopefully will start to see a strong resumption during the holiday period in August,” he said.
In the meantime, TAT is holding the Amazing Thailand Fest 2023 in Osaka to maintain awareness among tourists by promoting Thai soft power through traditional events such as the Loy Krathong Festival. The agency is also targeting younger tourists by bringing two famous Thai artists from the “Boys Love” TV series to this festival to help create new exposure to Thailand.
In August, the agency will invite media from Japan to inspect new tourism products in Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Chiang Mai, Phetchaburi, and Samut Songkram.
Mr Yuthasak said that TAT is confident that Thailand will be able to recover its tourism industry in the near future.
“We have a lot of good products to offer tourists, and we are confident that we can attract them back to Thailand,” he said.