January tourism jump 16% despite Russian market collapse

January tourism jump 16% despite Russian market collapse

Foreign tourists walk through the Chatuchak weekend market on a hot March day. The first month of the year saw a huge increase in Chinese visitors and a tremendous drop in Russian travellers. (Photo by Jiraporn Kuhakan)
Foreign tourists walk through the Chatuchak weekend market on a hot March day. The first month of the year saw a huge increase in Chinese visitors and a tremendous drop in Russian travellers. (Photo by Jiraporn Kuhakan)

A year after the “Bangkok shutdown,” tourists flocked back to Thailand, with arrivals in January jumping 16.3% despite a 46% plunge in Russian visitors.

Statistics released by Department of Tourism this week showed 2.65 million international tourists arrived in the kingdom during January, up from 2.28 million in January 2014, when the People's Democratic Reform Committee mobilised often-violent street protests across Bangkok.

More than just a rebound from last year's protest-marred high season, this January's tourists also surpassed the 2.31 million tourists who arrived in January 2013, Tourism Department records showed.

The gains came despite a tremendous drop in arrivals from Russia, where a historic drop in the value of the rouble has forced most international travellers to stay home. Arrivals from Russia plummeted 45.97% to 145,605 visitors in January, down from 269,479 in the same month last year.

A Tourist Police Division officer provides directions for a tourist at Bangkok’s Siam Paragon mall. (Bangkok Post photo)

The huge drop followed year-on-year declines of approximately 27%, 23% and 21% in the previous months, respectively.

What Thailand lost in Russian visitors it more than made up in Chinese, however. Following December's 86.5% year-on-year increase in arrivals from China, tourists from the mainland soared 56.96% in January to 560,399 arrivals.

Visitors from Asean also jumped up 49.3% year-on-year to 622,277. Asean tourists had increased only 12% in December and just 9% for all of 2014.

Thailand also saw big rebounds from markets that shunned the country for all of last year. Hong Kong arrivals rocketed ahead 83.9% year-on-year in January while Taiwanese travellers jumped 53.9%. Arrivals from those two countries had tumbled 18% and 22%, respectively, for the full 2014 year.

Even Japan, one of the few markets that declined December, finally turned positive in January, up 5.8%.

European tourism, however, continues to struggle. Dragged down by Russian, overall European arrivals fell 14.3% in January from a year earlier. Spain (8.1%) and Italy (11.3%) marked the only solid increases while important markets like the United Kingdom (down 0.5%) and Germany (up 0.6%) continued to flounder.

Elsewhere, Indian arrivals returned to strong growth, up 16.6% and tourists form the Middle East surged 31.1%, led by a 114% increase from the United Arab Emirates, which sent 7,361 travellers to Thailand in the month.

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