Thailand expects record 30.3 million visitors despite bomb attack

Tourists walking along Khao San Road in Bangkok on Aug 21, 2015.
Tourists walking along Khao San Road in Bangkok on Aug 21, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK (REUTERS) - A record 30.3 million tourists are expected to visit Thailand this year, with more than a quarter coming from China, the tourism council said on Tuesday (Oct 20), as the country rebounds from political unrest last year and a bomb attack in August.

Thailand's vital tourism industry, which accounts for about 10 per cent of Gross Domestic Product, has grappled with trying to overcome bad publicity following a coup last year and a bomb attack in Bangkok in August that briefly caused visitor arrivals to fall.

But overall, the sector has been doing well in spite of an economy that has been stubbornly underperforming, proving that Thailand's beaches, bars and Buddhist temples continue to draw visitors.

If the tourist council's forecast proves right, this year's total number of visitors will be 22.3 per cent more than last year.

The previous record year was 2013, when 26.5 million visited. The number fell to 24.8 million in 2014, partly because some tourists were put off by political unrest including street protests in Bangkok that year.

Ittirit Kinglek, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, said the bomb attack at a major tourist spot in the Thai capital did not have much impact on the sector and the country can expect a record number this year driven by Chinese tourists.

"The bombing did not have much impact on the general outlook for tourism," Ittirit said in a statement. "The aim is to get the last quarter of this year to return to normal."

Fourteen foreigners - seven from mainland China and Hong Kong - were among the 20 people killed in the attack at a famous religious shrine in Bangkok's commercial heart.

Two men have been arrested on suspicion of carrying out the attack which authorities believe stemmed from a crackdown on people-smuggling.

Visitors from China are expected to be a record 8.12 million this year, up 76.31 per cent from 2014, Ittirit said.

The government has said it expects 7 million visitors from China this year (2015), compared with 4.63 million in 2014, which would still be an all-time record.

It is aiming for 2.2 trillion baht (S$86.3 billion) in revenue this year from tourism.