Thailand Records Highest Visitor Spend in All of Asia

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Thailand has become quite the tourism powerhouse.

According to a graphic created by HowMuch, based on UN World Tourism data, the country collected $57 billion in international tourism receipts last year, putting it ahead of any other country in Asia.

Wat Phra Kaew Ancient temple in bangkok Thailand (photo via southtownboy / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Thailand’s top-ranking status in its region is merely one of the takeaways from the new HowMuch graphic, which highlights countries with thriving international tourism industries and also reveals the dramatic disparity between the places where tourists spend big bucks, versus those where they hardly spend any money at all.

According to the HowMuch review of UNWTO data, the top 10 countries with the highest international tourism receipts for 2017 were the United States ($211 billion); Spain ($68 billion); France ($61 billion); Thailand ($57 billion); United Kingdom ($51 billion); Italy ($44 billion); Australia ($42 billion); Germany ($40 billion); Macao ($36 billion) and finally Japan ($34 billion).

One of the most obvious conclusions that can be drawn from the HowMuch visualization, according to the chart’s authors, is the vast disparity between tourism powerhouses and those countries earning the least income from tourism.

“Take Africa and the Middle East, for example. Only a handful of countries have tourism industries large enough to appear on our visual,” says HowMuch.

“Compare that to the size of the US, which is more than double the combined size of both areas. The US alone actually accounts for 16 percent of the entire world’s tourist expenditures ($211 billion), and the combined value of the top ten countries on our list make up an amazing 49 percent ($643 billion).”

The big takeaway says HowMuch, is that the tourism industry is top heavy and concentrated in a few key places. What’s more, the places attracting the most tourism spend are generally Western countries, and a few East Asian hotspots such as Japan, Thailand and Macao.

“Comparatively little expenditures take place in the global south, including South America,” says HowMuch. “The notable exceptions are Australia ($42 billion) and New Zealand ($10 billion), but both of those are developed English-speaking countries.”

Ultimately, the HowMuch graphic and associated interpretation raises this question about the global travel industry: Airlines fly all over the world, and yet the tourism industry is bifurcated and unequal. How can unknown places attract visitors who spend money?

It’s a question that unfortunately, has yet to be answered.

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