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2023: The Year of Sports and Wellness Tourism in Thailand
30 December 2022 | Written by Chris Alexander

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) recently confirmed that health and wellness activities represent the fastest-growing sub-sectors in tourism’s new normal. Thailand is moving to capitalise on this trend, with a range of sports, health and wellness offerings set to roll out nationwide in 2023.

Thailand’s Tourism and Sports Ministry is already growing its operations and aims to make the nation a premier destination for sports tourism. Officials recently confirmed they expect to raise an additional 40 billion baht (US$ 1.1 billion) each year from the planned expansion.

Meanwhile, provinces along the Andaman coast have been highlighted as potential destinations for wellness escapes, where returning tourists can escape the crowds of more well-trodden locations and find serenity by the sea. For more conventional health tourism, including surgeries and treatment, Phuket is being repositioned as a medical hub.

Thailand is already a world-famous destination for sports like Muay Thai – the traditional Thai boxing discipline attracts thousands of visitors from Australia, the USA, the UK and various other European countries each year. The number of gyms nationwide continues to increase, as demand for the sport grows among foreign visitors.

Existing infrastructure in Thailand has demonstrated the popularity of sports among international visitors, while also hinting at the potential for further expansion. Thanyapura Sports & Health Resort Phuket offers a one-stop destination for sports and health tourism, featuring a range of sport and exercise facilities, along with services such as physiotherapy, nutrition and sports coaching.

Thanyapura currently has an average occupancy rate of 50%, comprising a mix of individual travellers and groups of professional athletes. Marisa Yenbamroong is the executive director of the resort. She believes Phuket has all the infrastructure and resources needed to become Thailand’s sports and wellness hub.

With its beautiful scenery, excellent cuisine and wellness offerings such as traditional Thai massage, the kingdom is already famed as one of the world’s top places for physical and spiritual healing. The global wellness tourism industry is currently estimated to be worth US$ 4.4 trillion each year. Researchers predict this total will rise to US$ 7 trillion by 2025.

Earlier this year, Thailand was featured in the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) ‘Geography of Wellness’ microsite; a platform created to give countries a deeper understanding of where they are positioned within this growing wellness economy. According to Susie Ellis, who is the CEO of GWI, “this gives entrepreneurs, businesses, academics and government agencies a clear-eyed look at where short- and long-term opportunities may lie.”

Thailand’s overall position in the Asia-Pacific wellness economy is currently #9, while its global ranking is #24. With health, sports and wellness tourism becoming increasingly popular in the post-travel landscape, the potential for growth is enormous.