Thailand welcomes most foreign visitors since start of Covid-19

The number topped the government’s forecast of 10 million foreign visitors. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BANGKOK – Thailand welcomed 11.2 million foreign tourists in 2022, the highest number since Covid-19 emerged, as the tourism-dependent South-east Asian nation recovers from the pandemic. 

The number topped the government’s forecast of 10 million foreign visitors, boosted by increased arrivals in the second half of the year.

It’s just over a quarter of the 40 million international arrivals recorded in 2019, when revenue from foreign tourism receipts generated 1.9 trillion baht (S$76 billion), according to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports data.  

The government’s target of drawing 25 million overseas holidaymakers in 2023 stands to gain momentum now that China has abandoned its zero-Covid policy and reopened its borders.

Chinese citizens, a cornerstone of the global travel industry pre-virus, will be able to travel abroad in tour groups again from Feb 6. 

Thailand expects seven to 10 million Chinese travellers to arrive by air this year, Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said.

Malaysian visitors ranked first among international arrivals at 1.95 million last year, followed by tourists from India at 997,913 and 614,627 from Singapore, according to official data.

Chinese tourists tallied just 273,567, far below the 11 million arrivals registered in 2019, before Covid-19 hit global travel. 

South-east Asia’s second-largest economy drew just roughly 428,000 foreign arrivals in 2021. The tourism industry had generated about 18 per cent of GDP pre-pandemic, according to government data.

On Tuesday, Thailand’s Cabinet approved a budget of 3.95 billion baht (S$159 million) to boost domestic travel and draw in foreigners, government spokesperson Anucha Burapachaisri said.

Domestic tourism will be allocated 2 billion baht from February to September, and the remainder will be used to promote secondary cities to international travellers, he said. BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

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