Saturday, December 10

Thailand to Beat Tourism Target as Indians, Malaysians Lead Rush

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(Bloomberg) — Thailand is on course to surpass its target to attract 10 million foreign visitors this year as Malaysians and Indians lead the return of holidaymakers while most Chinese travelers, who topped the list before the pandemic, stay home due to the nation’s Covid- Zero policy.

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Tourist arrivals totaled 7.56 million as of Oct. 30, with at least 1.5 million visitors a month expected during the remainder of the year, government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said in a statement Saturday. Flight bookings from India and Malaysia to Thailand showed a load-factor of 85% and 68% respectively during November and December, he said.

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More than 1 million Malaysians have toured Thailand this year, making them the single-largest group of travelers to the Southeast Asian country famous for its beaches, national parks and Buddhist temples. Almost 600,000 Indians visited Thailand in the first nine months of the year, compared with less than 1,000 a year earlier.

Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy is counting on tourism revival to offset the hit from high global energy prices and volatile financial markets that sent its currency to a 16-year low and inflation to a 14-year high earlier this year. Thailand scrapped all travel curbs in July as local Covid cases fell and most businesses returned to normal operations, helping draw tourists who were mostly absent in the previous two years.

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The number of visitors may surge to 18 million next year and generate about 970 billion baht ($26 billion) in tourism revenue, Anucha said, citing a forecast by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. That’s still a far cry from the year before the pandemic when the nation recorded almost 40 million foreign arrivals and more than $60 billion in tourism revenue.

Domestic travel is forecast to generate 760 billion baht in revenue in 2023, according to the tourism authority.

“Thailand still remains a popular destination that can meet the needs of tourists who want to visit,” Anucha said. “It can compete with other countries” seeking to attract tourists, he said.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha has ordered relevant agencies to deploy more personnel to handle the surge in tourist arrivals, especially at immigration counters at the airports, as Thailand is vying with other nations to draw visitors, Anucha said.

—With assistance from Suttinee Yuvejwattana.