Thailand has long been a favoured location for tourists from all over the world. The country offers a wide variety of holiday destinations, ranging from white sand beaches, tranquil valleys and scenic mountains to a colourful nightlife. It is also known for its religious and cultural harmony as a land that enthusiastically celebrates festivals of all cultures and welcomes foreign guests with warm smiles and effusive hospitality. Such diversity and renowned hospitality in addition to world-class accommodation and convention facilities have contributed to the continued success of the Thai tourism industry over a number of decades. Tourism is one of Thailand’s major sources of income. It constitutes approximately 6 percent of the country’s GDP. In 2008, 14.54 million foreigners travelled to the country.
International Tourist Arrivals to Thailand by Region 2003-2007:
Winning the Hearts of Tourists
Over the years, the Kingdom has topped numerous travellers’ polls as being among the world’s most tourist friendly countries. In May 2009, a CNN survey of 5,000 travellers found Thailand to be the best value for money destination in the Asia-Pacific region. The accolades keep on coming. Earlier this year, Thailand was declared the Most Favored Asian Destination in the Go Asia Awards Survey. Bangkok and Chiang Mai were also voted third and fifth top cities in the world in Travel + Leisure’s 2009 World’s Best Awards. The prestigious Condé Nast Traveller pronounced Bangkok as the Best City of Asia in 2008, while Chiang Mai placed second behind the capital.
Land of Smiles
Thailand is widely known as the “Land of Smiles” because of its warm hospitality, friendly people and the contagious ‘Thai smile’ that make visitors want to keep coming back. Even in Bangkok, where the pace of life is faster, you can still see smiles on people’s faces as they go about their busy daily schedules.
Thailand offers a number of tourist attractions. In the north, mountains, forests and indigenous hill tribes, while in the south, fantastic diving sites, sandy beaches and hundreds of islands welcome visitors. To the east and northeast, mysterious monuments of ancient kingdoms wait to be explored. In the central region, there are many World Heritage and historical sites, among which are the not-to-be-missed Grand Palace, the Temple of Dawn as well as other old temples adorned with golden stupas, the landmarks of Bangkok.
What makes Thailand well-known among foreigners is its rich culture and warm hospitality. A lot of fun and colourful festivals, such as the Thai New Year or Songkran - the water festival and Loy Kratong, the festival of lights where candle-lit floral lanterns are floated down the rivers always draw visitors’ attention. Thailand also offers a great variety of arts and crafts, from local wooden handicrafts and exquisite Thai silk to distinctively delicate jewel-studded nielloware that tell many stories about the culture-rich Kingdom.
Thailand has a full range of accommodation from well-known international hotel chains to chic boutique hotels, budget hotels, guest houses, serviced apartments and homestay accommodation run by locals. Most international hotel chains are located in main cities, such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Pattaya, but are increasingly found in secondary cities across the country.
Thai food is a primary delight for foreign visitors. Authentic, local cuisine, with its distinctive taste and enthusiastic use of fresh herbs and spices, is available at inexpensive street stalls as well as more pricey gourmet restaurants. Thailand also offers an impressive choice of international ethnic food as well as international fast food chains.
In Bangkok, modern shopping malls offer international and local brands while Chatuchak Weekend Market, possibly the world’s largest flea market, sells everything from food to fashion products, collectible items, plant and gardening products, household items and even pets. There are others, such as the night markets on Silom and Khao San roads, where visitors can enjoy a night out and a good bargain. In the provinces outside of Bangkok, floating markets, such as the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, offer stunning views of life on the river. Walking street markets can be found up north in Chiang Mai and down south in Phuket as well as in other smaller towns.
As one of Southeast Asia’s travel gateways, Thailand has an excellent transportation infrastructure. The new Suvarnabhumi International Airport can accommodate 45 million passengers per year and will expand to handle up to 60 million in the future. Meanwhile, other international and domestic airports around the country offer international standard facilities and convenience to passengers. In addition, Thailand boasts a well developed highway, rail and bus network that allows convenient and safe land transport to all cities nationwide. International and local car rental services are also a convenient and viable option for visitors.
To promote and assist the tourism industry, the Thai government has introduced measures designed to reduce tourism-related fees and service costs, including visa fees, where appli- cable. At the same time, the government also considers the convenience, safety and security of foreign visitors a matter of highest importance. In addition to an effective Tourism Police force dedicated to helping tourists, measures have also been implemented and will be reinforced, where necessary, to address problems which may have an impact on their safety and convenience.