Now that all travel restrictions have dropped and normality has been reinstated across Southeast Asia, it is exploding in popularity.
Filled with paddy fields, sweeping green panoramas, and centuries-old pagodas, it is a fascinating, mystical land certain to blow your mind.
Though there are as many as 11 countries that make up the subcontinent, including some of the most promising destinations in this post-crisis scene, namely Vietnam and Cambodia, one country in particular continues to lead visitation trends with over 14.5 million tourists recorded this year.
Already hugely popular in previous years, it is now asserting its status as one of the world’s top tourist destinations.
Thailand’s Figures Are Nothing Short Of Impressive
With such impressive figures, it is no wonder the ancient kingdom of Thailand sits at the helm of Southeast Asia, guiding it toward a full economic recovery.
Having reached close to 15 million guests registered between January and July 16, and over 588 billion baht, or $17.11 billion in revenue, as confirmed by the Tourism Ministry, it is perhaps Southeast Asia’s most sought-after and successful hub.
Thailand is far from being the region’s only appealing destination, with nations like Vietnam boasting 3,260 km of a pristine coastline bounded by an azure East Sea, and Singapore, Malaysia, and the like consistently ranking as two of the most diverse and developed states in the group.
Recently, Vietnam also eased its visa requirements, while Malaysia launched an easy-to-apply residency permit for digital nomads, thus increasing competition among Southeast Asian nations.
So why is Thailand still a regional leader, and what exactly does it have to offer compared to its counterparts?
First of all, Thailand has been slowly reinstating its once-severed ties to North America, with new nonstop flights announced for the first time in a decade.
This makes it easier for North Americans to reach Thailand without resorting to long layovers in third countries.
AirCanada’s new direct service linking Vancouver International to Bangkok, the bustling capital of Thailand, has been bringing residents of Canada’s West Coast closer to the paradisaical destination since launching in early 2022, and it’s already a major success.
Though there are no US-Thailand flights as of yet, the Canadian route is already a major step towards strengthening ties between both subcontinents, and it’s certainly contributed to the Asian kingdom’s recovery, as well as increased competitiveness.
It Is Affordable
Thailand is also a lot cheaper than some of the most developed Southeast Asian countries, particularly Singapore, where the cost of living is equivalent to the Western World’s or even higher.
Though they are part of the same union of countries, Thailand can be a lot cheaper, owing to a weaker currency, as the Thai baht is a lot less powerful than the U.S. or Canadian dollar, and the availability of fresh food and services at reduced prices.
According to Numbeo, consumer prices in Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second-largest, and perhaps its most traditional city, and a tourist favorite, consumer prices are up to 51.2% lower than in Vancouver, Canada, while restaurant bills can be up to 79.3% cheaper.
Even Phuket, Thailand’s number one beach destination and its trendiest island, often perceived as the most expensive vacation hotspot in the country, can be up to 45.4% less expensive than a Western destination, meaning your tourist dollars stretch much further here.
It Stays On Top Of Trends
Thailand has ensured it stays on top of all of the latest travel trends, and that’s partly why it’s risen to prominence lately.
From investment in wellness to the opening of new migration routes for temporary residents and digital workers, it is reinventing itself as a more modern, open state.
Having realized long-term tourists boost the local economy and help the country achieve its sustainable tourism goals, local authorities have been actively promoting ‘slow’ travel and making it easier for them to apply for residency visas.
Additionally, it is placing nature at the front of the campaign through its numerous relaxation retreats and spa centers, nestled in verdant reserves and surrounded by nature.
This widely-lauded move is set to attract wellness seekers who deliberately avoided Thailand due to its reputation as a party destination.
Thailand Is More Liberal
Finally, Thailand has a more liberal approach toward the commercialization of psychoactive drugs than its Southeast Asian partners do.
For instance, it lifted a ban on medicinal cannabis in 2022, becoming the first in the subcontinent to do so.
Now, you can buy reasonable amounts of cannabis-based products across Thailand as long as you report usage for a health-related purpose. This sets Thailand apart from the likes of Malaysia and Indonesia, where laws are much harsher.
The nightlife in Thailand is much more liberal as well, particularly in Bangkok, the island of Phuket, and the beach zone in Pattaya, where adult entertainment venues are allowed to operate when fulfilling certain conditions, and attitudes towards sexuality are very permissive.
Thailand is affordable, fun, and trendy to visit, and we can definitely see it rising to the top of the world tourism charts in the months to come as it continues to invest in the sector and promote gorgeous lesser-known gems Westerners may not have heard of yet.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com