As many other tourist destinations around the world struggle to adapt to extreme shifts in the global economic landscape, Thailand, and in particular it's popular holiday islands of Phuket and Koh Samui, continue to welcome ever increasing numbers of visitors each year.
New statistics released recently by market research consulting firm C9 Hotelworks, show that Russia's outbound market to Southeast Asia shot up over 1.8 million in 2012, and that within this huge increase, an impressive 71% of holidaymakers chose Thailand as their preferred destination, with the remaining visitors form the ex-soviet block choosing places like Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia.
A dramatic increase in charter flights to Phuket has been key to the sharp rise in Eastern Europeans visiting the island, which the report says has grown at a compounded annual growth rate of 77%. In fact, the upswing is so steep that Bill Barnett, managing director of C9Hotelworks believes the "rapid acceleration has turned the tables upside down on the once dominant Western European market."
Meanwhile, over in the Gulf of Thailand, the same consulting firm's most recent report on Koh Samui shows that historically high market-wide occupancy of 68% was achieved last year. This was thanks, in part, to an increase in direct international flights, coupled with a marked increase in domestic visitors to Thailand's boutique gem.
Passenger arrivals to Samui Airport reached 914,301, with an 8% compound annual growth rate between 2004 – 2012 and the top three source countries for visitors to the island were Germany, Thailand and the UK, with a combined share of 27%. Such consistent growth in what many feel are still troubled economic times suggests Phuket and Samui's appeal goes far beyond economy. Thailand's draw as a destination is incredibly diverse and for this reason it continues to attract an equally diverse set of visitors, which guarantees a healthy tourism industry.
Another example of the kingdom's far reaching appeal is its popularity as a regional destination for people based in countries across Asia. The Tourism Council of Thailand reported that of the 22 million people visiting the kingdom in 2012, some 2.5 million travellers came from China, while India, South Korea and Japan each clocked up almost one million arrivals.
Like the country's visitor profiles, the choice of accommodation on offer to visitors is also constantly expanding and a significant trend has seen the emergence of holiday rental homes, especially on the most popular Thai islands. Within this sector, the size and scope of properties is ever more diverse, with smaller, boutique residences and apartments gaining in popularity to complement the bigger, more opulent villas that continue to attract larger groups and families, as well as wedding parties and even corporate delegations.
As in any business sector, extending the options available to customers and targeting new clients is a sure way to sustain success. When it comes to tourism in Thailand, thanks to its rich diversity of locations, attractions, cuisine and accommodation choices, even when the supply of eager visitors ebbs from one country or region, another often steps up to maintain the inbound flow.