BANGKOK — The number of foreign tourists who visited Thailand in 2014 is down 6.6 percent from the previous year, a Thai government official confirmed.
"24.7 million tourists visited Thailand in the year 2014, which is a 6.6 percent decrease compared with 2013," said Kobkarn Wattanavarangkul, Minister of Tourism and Sports. "They generated 1.13 trillion baht in revenue, 5.8 percent less than [the previous year]."
Kobkarn attributed the decline in tourist arrivals and revenues to the political crisis in Thailand during "the first half of 2014," in which parts of Bangkok were paralyzed by street protests that aimed to topple the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
The protests, which occasionally turned violent, came to an end when the military staged a coup and declared nationwide martial law in May 2014. The military junta also imposed a 10 pm – 6 am curfew in Thailand for several weeks.
Tourism experts and economists also say that martial law, which remains in place today, has dissuaded many potential foreign tourists from visiting Thailand. More recently, the dramatic fall of the Russian ruble has further damaged tourism in popular destinations for Russian tourists such as Pattaya and Phuket.
According to Kobkarn, the government's goal of increasing "quality tourists," defined as high-spending and culturally sensitive visitors, also failed this year, with numbers showing no increase in the average income of foreign tourists in 2014 as compared to 2013.
"It's not much different to previous years," she said.
In an effort to revitalize growth in the tourism industry – a major source of revenue for the Kingdom – Thailand’s tourism authorities have launched a campaign called "2015: Discover Thainess" to promote Thai "values" and the uniqueness of Thai culture.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor Thawatchai Arunyik said the campaign will incorporate the "Twelve Values" that Thai junta leader and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha wants all Thais to practice.
"We have scheduled a host of events that are specially designed to showcase "Thainess," or the distinct character of the Thai people and our unique culture," Thawatchai said on the TAT website.
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