SINGAPORE: Thailand in general and Bangkok in particular are well known to tourists from all around the world.
The country has for years been ranked among the worlds top 20 tourist destinations.
Bangkok rings in huge travel dollars among the worlds top five cities for tourism according to annual rankings by Mastercard – in some years, like 2019, even occupying the top position – rivalling Paris, London, Tokyo and Dubai.
FEWER CHINESE TOURISTS
Last year, Thailand welcomed 38.27 million tourists, slightly more than half of the countrys population.
In 2019, projections suggest that number may exceed 40 million for the first time.
That might not sound like a lot but this whopping figure is more than twice the number of visitors to Singapore in 2018, of about 16.9 million.
Chinese made up the largest group of tourists visiting Thailand in 2018, coming in at 10 million.
But the ongoing trade war between China and the US may have some dampening impact on the Chinese economy, and thereby reduce the number of Chinese travellers leaving their country for a bit of a holiday this year.
A recent news report suggests the trade war has had a huge impact on popular beach destinations like Phuket, as the resort town braces for that rare slump.
But this news of emptier-than-usual beaches may be a boon to Singaporean travellers wanting to spend some quality time with family and friends in Thailand, away from the city-states hustle-and-bustle, and keen to score a bargain from freshly slashed room rates.
In fact, for Singaporeans, who may have travelled to Bangkok many times over, now is the time to check out “unseen Thailand”.
A GOOD TIME TO GO TO THAILAND
About 1 million Singaporeans visit Thailand each year, no doubt an easy destination to head off to when the country is a mere two-hour flight away from Changi Airport.
This number may dip slightly below 1 million this year, owing to the economic slowdown in Singapore, as people tighten their belts.
Apart from Bangkok, the favourite Thai destination for most Singaporeans, most of whom have travelled to Thailand more than once, include Phuket, Chiang Mai and Pattaya.
Younger travellers tend to be more sophisticated in their search and planning, and prefer to organise their own self-guided adventure. Some can even go solo; others just love roughing it out with a close friend or a loved one.
I would argue that despite news of Thailand being shunned by tourists given the global slowdown, that there remains much treasure to discover off the beaten track.
Have you ever seen elephants ploughing the rice field? You can do that in a rural village called Baan Na Tien in Chiang Mai.
Have you seen monkeys picking coconuts on tall trees on instruction?
You can watch how they are trained if you search for Monkey Training College, in Kanchanadit District, 24km outside of Surat Thani Province – the same southern province that is home to world-famous Koh Samui island.
Thais themselves are incredibly warm people. Numerous rural communities have set up homestays to welcome foreigners and share with them the locals unique way of life, traditions and festivals.
I would also argue against heading to Thailand on mass tourism packages, which offer a packed schedule in a very limited time.
Such programmes often focus on Bangkok and a few other well-known places, requiring you to rush from one attraction to another, leaving you with little time to soak in Thailands subtle beauty, or appreciate the intricacies of Thai culture, arts and cuisine.
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