It’s the fourth-most-profitable tourism destination in the world.
Just more than a year ago, I ate at Nahm, in Bangkok—and walked out after paying barely $60 for a tasting menu that currently ranks 49th on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. My grand, five-star hotel, the Anantara Siam, with its gilded murals and landscaped courtyards, cost $150 a night, including a breakfast buffet that was truly fit for royalty. Even the most expensive souvenir I bought in town, an elephant figurine with inlaid mother of pearl, cost less than a typical outing to McDonald’s back home in New York.
Yet, according to a visualization of recent UN World Tourism Organization data by HowMuch, a financial literacy and infographics agency, Thailand outranks every other nation in Asia when it comes to tourism spend.
Last year, it collected $57 billion in international tourism receipts, nearly doubling Macao ($36 billion), Japan ($34 billion), Hong Kong ($33 billion), and China ($33 billion). Globally, the only countries that out-earn Thailand in terms of tourism dollars are France ($61 billion), Spain ($68 billion), and the United States—which handily takes the gold medal, at $211 billion.
It all comes down to volume. Foreign arrivals could hit 40 million next year, which is more than half the country’s population.