International tourist arrivals in 2016 are expected to hit a record high of 32 million compared with an estimated 29.88 million last year, the Thai tourism and sports minister said. "Actually, 32 million is just a calculation. We do not put that as a target because we are now emphasising only revenue," Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said. Ms Kobkarn said 32 million foreign visitors - a 7% increase over 2015 - likely would generate 1.67 trillion baht in revenue.
Around 60 to 70 percent of travelers are repeat visitors, she said.
The country providing the most tourists to Thailand was China, with around 8 million in 2015. Malaysia came in a distant second with more than 3 million, and Japan, third with 1.4 million.
But overall tourism revenue, after taking into account domestic travellers, is projected at 2.3 trillion baht, up from 2.2 trillion baht in 2015. The ministry is hoping to see both domestic and international visitors spending as much as 2.5 trillion baht in 2017.
She said the ministry will try to achieve that target by implementing strategies to ensure sustainable tourism by focusing on quality of services that would create a balance between economic, social and environmental considerations.
The ministry also wants to reduce the income gap through better wealth distribution and foster a love of the motherland so local communities would better care for their own neighbourhoods.
"We aim to focus on quality by increasing spending per head while minimising utilisation of natural resources," said Ms Kobkarn. "We will not focus solely on raising the number of visitors."