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Japanese Market Rebounds After Four-year Slump

  /  DESTINATIONS   /  Japanese Market Rebounds After Four-year Slump

By Imtiaz Muqbil, Executive Editor,

Japanese visitor arrivals to Thailand have bounced back after four consecutive years of decline caused by the economic slump in Japan and the aftermath of various political and environmental problems in Thailand itself.

2-1Japan was once Thailand’s second largest source of visitor arrivals after Malaysia. It has now fallen to third place, mainly due to the surge in Chinese visitor arrivals, which have overtaken both the Japanese and Malaysians and shot up to Number One status.

Japan and Thailand have very close and historic relations at the Royal Family level, government level and people-to-people level. Japan is also one of Thailand’s largest trading partners. In addition to its massive private sector investments, Japan has also provided extensive financial support for development of Thai airports, highways, ports, museums and national parks.

In 2012, Japanese arrivals to Thailand totalled 1,371,253, up 21.58%. This growth has continued in 2013; between January-February 2013, Thailand attracted 274,398 Japanese visitors, up 25.73% over the same period of 2012.

This is a welcome turnaround from the 2007-10 period when Japanese visitor arrivals slumped annually. In 2010, Japanese visitors to Thailand fell 1.07 percent over 2009 due to the domestic political disturbances in Thailand as well as the downturn in the Japanese economy.

Japanese Visitors Arrivals Thailand 2006-2013

Year Arrival (by nationality) % Change
2006 1,311,987 9.64
2007 1,277,638 -2.62
2008 1,153,868 -9.69
2009 1,004,453 -12.95
2010 993,674 -1.07
2011 1,127,893 13.51
2012 1,371,253 21.58
2013 (Jan-Feb) 274,398 25.73

Source: Immigration Bureau, Police Department.

The rebound began in 2011, when Thailand recorded 1.12 million visitors from Japan, up 13.34%. This was quite a remarkable result, achieved in spite of the fact that overall Japanese outbound was affected by the March 11, 2011 tsunami/nuclear crisis in Fukushima and the October-November 2011 floods in Central Thailand.

The floods had a bigger impact than the tsunami. Although Japanese travel agents suspended package tours, Thailand was able to retain market share especially among repeat travellers, who comprise roughly 60% of arrivals from Japan.

Top five Thai destinations for Japanese visitors are Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Pattaya and Bangsaen.

Tourism Revenue in 2012
Japanese visitors stayed an average of 8.24 days and spent an average of 4,556 baht person per day (or US$146.26) during January-June 2012. This contributed a total of 22.8 billion baht (US$731 million) tourism foreign exchange revenue to the Thai economy.

Year Length of stay (Days) Per Capital Spending Tourism Receipts
Baht/Day US$/Day Mil. Baht Mil. US$
2008 7.13 4,521.11 135.73 35,804.94 1,074.90
2009 7.22 4,397.03 128.23 28,904.51/td>

2010 7.22 4,417.07 139.38 31,266.64 984.65
2011 7.65 4,472.22 146.69 37,740.70 1,237.81
20012 (Jan-June) 8.24 4,555.54 146.25 22,800.48 731.96

Source: Ministry of Tourism and Sports
2008: Exchange Rate 1 US$ = 31.31 Baht
2009: Exchange Rate 1 US$ = 34.29 Baht
2010: Exchange Rate 1 US$ = 31.69 Baht
2011: Exchange Rate 1 US$ = 30.49 Baht
2012: Exchange Rate 1 US$ = 31.15 Baht

The profile of Japanese visitors to Thailand in 2011 (the last year for which figures have been tabulated) shows some interesting trends:

    • Female Japanese visitors were up by 27.05% to 291,299 while Male visitors were up by 8.07% to 811,774.
      76% of Japanese arrivals were repeat travellers. This segment showed a growth of 9.93%, while first-time visitors were up by 21.38% to 268,077.
      81% were FIT and up by 15.74%, while visitors travelling by group tour were up by 0.3% to 205,741.
      In terms of age groups, young people aged under 25 were up by 50.83%. Overall, Japanese visitors to Thailand were aged mainly between 35-44 and 45-54, up respectively by 19.11% and 10.97%. Senior citizens aged over 65 declined by 8.14%.
      By purpose of visit, 43.82% were holiday visitors, 19.72% were convention delegates, 14.46% (meeting), 13.76% (incentive), 0.84% (exhibitions) and 7.41% (others).
  • Aviation Linkages
    There is no shortage of flights linking Thailand and Japan. In April 2013, there were 124 direct scheduled flights between Thailand – Japan, operated by 5 airlines including Thai Airways International (TG), Japan Airlines (JL), All Nippon Airways (NH), United Airlines (UA) and Delta Airlines (DL).
    Thai Airways International has increased flights on the Nagoya – Bangkok from 10 to 11 per week and Sapporo – Bangkok from 3 to 4 per week. Many airlines such as All Nippon Airways (ANA) have also reduced fuel surcharge fee from 16,500 yen to 15,000 yen on routes to Thailand, Singapore, and Myanmar.

    If the world remains at peace, free of any serious dislocation, Japanese visitor arrivals to Thailand will continue to boom. For 2013, TAT has set a target of 1.4 million Japanese visitors, up 6% over 2012.

    Japanese enjoy such popular pastimes as golf and marine sports. Thailand has also proved to be popular for Japanese weddings & honeymoons. Ecotourism, especially activities such as trekking and bird-watching in Thai national parks, is also growing. Business travel has also returned to normal levels.


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