Gastronomy tourism and local food are being highlighted in a new tourism campaign starting this month, says Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul.
"Gastronomy makes up around one-third of tourist expenditures. But food can be a larger portion of their budget as Thailand offers a variety of foods, ranging from local to international dishes," Mrs Kobkarn said.
Starting from this month, a national tourism campaign called Amazing Thailand Tourism Year 2018 is set to focus on local experiences including food and gastronomy.
This year, CNN awarded Bangkok with the top rating for best street food in the world for the second straight year.
Following Bangkok were Tokyo, Honolulu, Durban, New Orleans, Istanbul, Hong Kong, Paris, Mexico City, Cairo, Marrakesh, Cartagena (Colombia), Portland (Oregon), Dakar, Bali, Mumbai, Ho Chi Minh City, Miami, Rome, Rio de Janeiro, Sydney and Beijing.
Last year, gastronomy tourism generated 329 billion baht or 20% of total tourism income in Thailand, following accommodation (29%) and shopping and souvenirs (24%).
The Tourism and Sports Ministry reported that the top five markets for gastronomy tourism are China, Russia, Britain, Malaysia and the US.
Chinese tourists spent 83.3 billion baht on food last year, a 19% increase from 2015. Russians contributed 20.8 billion baht for food in 2016, up 32% from the previous year, while the British spent 18.4 billion, a 10% increase.
Malaysians contributed 16.1 billion baht, up 7%, while Americans spent 13.9 billion, an 18% increase.
A top luxury retail operator, EM District, will organise Dinner in the Sky, an exclusive Bangkok event for food lovers. World-famous chefs will be invited to the event.
From Jan 1 to Oct 11 this year, 26.9 million foreigners travelled to Thailand and generated tourism income of 1.37 trillion baht, increases of 5.6% and 7.6%, respectively, from the same period the previous year.
China remained first for international arrivals, with 7.63 million. During China's Golden Week holiday from Oct 1 to 8, some 227,648 Chinese travelled to Thailand.
Ctrip.com International, a Chinese travel company, said more than 6.15 million Chinese ventured abroad during the Golden Week.