Thailand, one of the Asian ‘tiger’ economies, achieved outstanding rates of economic growth in 1985-86, but more moderate rates of growth in recent years. With modest overall levels of GDP per person and half of the population still engaged in agriculture, the potential for mass outbound leisure travel is still limited. UNWTO ranked Thailand 30th in the world by international travel expenditure in 2006.
Total outbound trips reached 3.4 mn in 2006, and international travel expenditure an estimated US$4.6bn.
Outbound trips increased by an average of 6.4% a year from 1996 to 2006, and by 11.0% in 2006 alone. International travel expenditure, meanwhile, rose by an average of 9.4% a year from 2011 to 2006, although growth in the first half of 2007 fell to an estimated 3.4%.
About 86% of outbound travellers are visiting other Asian destinations.
Outbound departures for Europe reached 281,000 in 2006, 12.3% up on 2005 and representing 8.3% of total outbound trip volume. The leading European destinations are France, Germany, the UK, Italy and Switzerland. The Nordic countries are also, on a smaller scale, popular destinations, but the numbers going to many other European destinations are still very limited.
The growth prospects for outbound travel from Thailand are considered good, and Europe reportedly remains high up the list in terms of aspirational destinations. But total trip volume to Europe will probably remain modest for the foreseeable future.