By Bruce Bickerstaff


When the Thai media talks about the financial impact of foreigners in Thailand they often focus only on spending by international tourists, although this is only one component of a much large picture.

1. Spending by international tourists in Thailand (2010)

592,794.09 million baht (Source: http://www.tourism.g...rism.php?cid=30)

2. Spending by resident foreigners within Thailand

Median living expenses 1500 baht day x 365 x 300,000 expats = 164,250,000,000 per annum

In addition the mean capital expenditure by each foreigner household was 3 million baht. Dividing this by the average length of residence (7 years) = 428,571 baht per household. But as the average foreigner household size is unknown, a total expenditure figure cannot be calculated at this time. Further, real estate purchased in the name of a foreigner is already included in the Bank of Thailand's IIP data as shown below.

Source 1: An online survey conducted in September 2011 of approximately 330 expats who have lived in Thailand for more than one year. Survey respondents were self-selected. Refer


Source 2: The calculation of the number of resident expats is described at, and the figure of 300,000 people is considered to be a conservative estimate.

3. Foreign investment in Thailand

223,754 million USD = 7272005000000 baht Using a currency conversion rate 32.5 (as of around mid-2010)

(Source: Bank of Thailand International Investment Position Report - to end 2009)

4. Purchase of Thai exports – annual receipts to end 2010

6,176,302.05 million baht


4. Remittance by Thai people from overseas in 2010

55,792 million baht - Mainly comprising returns on investment in foreign companies, salaries paid by foreigners


In summary


Type of capital input by, or due to, foreigners (Value in Thai baht)

Annual spending by international tourists in Thailand (592,794,090,000)
Annual spending by resident foreigners in Thailand (164,250,000,000)
Annual investment by foreigners in Thailand (7,272,005,000,000)
Annual purchase of Thai exports by foreigners (6,176,302,050,000)
Annual remittance by Thais living overseas (55,792,000,000)
Total 14,261,143,140,000 baht


By way of a point of comparison, total GDP of Thailand 2010 = 10.1048 trillion baht



The author is not an economist and there are many qualifications and disclaimers to this initial analysis. These include:


  1. As stated earlier, the figures for resident expat expenditure understate the true situation


  1. These figures do not take account of the multiplier or spill-over effects as described, for example, at


  1. There are obviously capital outflows like purchase of imports, investment by Thais overseas, and ‘leakage’ of foreign direct investment due to foreign ownership of some business. Thus the net impact is clearly substantially less than the stated figures.


At the end of the day, however, if this initial somewhat clumsy analysis prompts the undertaking of a more rigorous study then I would consider that to be a most worthwhile outcome.


Bruce Bickerstaff is the author of “Your Investment Guide to Thailand” which is available in both hard-copy and e-book format. Further details at