Thailand remains one of the world’s tourism hot spots and shows no sign of losing its popularity, as indicated by the latest figures released by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). Based on revenue generated from international arrivals around the Songkran festival period, the data shows a year-on-year increase that has outstripped projections.
Songkran is a nationwide water festival that takes place every year in Thailand, timed to coincide with the hottest weeks in the year. It is a popular event with both locals and international visitors due to its unique celebrations and in places, its carefree street party atmosphere. This year the main event took place from 12-16 April 2019.
Total revenue from a combination of international arrivals and domestic trips during this period amounted to 22.07 billion Baht; an increase of 15 percent compared to the same period last year. The number of international arrivals alone reached 543,300 (an increase of eight per cent on 2018) and contributed 10.23 billion Baht to the Thai economy (14 percent more than the previous year). In addition, there were 3.27 million trips made by domestic tourists over Songkran, which collectively added 11.84 billion Baht to the government coffers.
According to TAT Governor Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn, East Asia accounted for most foreign arrivals during the Songkran Festival, with arrivals from Hong Kong and India higher than expected thanks to the visa-on-arrival fee waiver that was put in place shortly before the festivities began.
The Thai government has recognized the pulling power of one of their most iconic and internationally renowned celebrations and has taken steps to encourage tourist arrivals during this time. This includes a relaxation in visa fees and the extension of the holiday itself from 3 to a total of 5 days. In 2018 the Thai cabinet extended the festivities to a total of five days to enable citizens to travel home for the holiday. In 2019, the holiday was celebrated from 12–16 April as the 13th fell on a Saturday.
The word “Songkran” comes from the Sanskrit word saṃkrānti, literally “astrological passage”, meaning transformation or change. The term was borrowed from Makar Sankranti, the name of a Hindu harvest festival celebrated in India in January to mark the arrival of spring. It coincides with the New Year of many calendars of South and Southeast Asia, in keeping with the Buddhist/Hindu solar calendar. In Thailand, this annual harvest festival continues to yield big dividends for the nation’s tourism industry.