BANGKOK:Thailand has welcomed 39.7 million visitors last year, up 4.2% year-on-year, with China as the biggest market followed by Malaysia, India, South Korea and Laos, said Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, Minister of Tourism and Sports, on Friday (Jan 24).
The number of Indian visitors soared by 24% to 1.99 million thanks to the exempted visa-on-arrival fee, said the minister.
According to the minister, Thailand generated 1.93 trillion baht (US%63bil) from visitors, up 3.05%.
the outlook for a lucrative industry is weighed by strength in the baht and China’s new coronavirus at a time of faltering economic growth.
The growth in foreign arrivals had slowed and missed a government target, and industry operators have blamed that on the strong baht, Asia’s top performer last year.
The baht THB=TH rose nearly 9% against the U.S. dollar and about 11% against China's yuan CNHTHB=R last year.
The Tourism Council of Thailand last week forecast less than 5% growth in overall foreign tourist numbers this year.
Kasikorn Research Centre on Friday predicted the number of Chinese tourists may fall 0.5%-2.0% this year, rather than the 1.6%-3.5% increase projected earlier.
China’s coronavirus has added to the concerns. Thailand on Friday confirmed its fifth case of the virus and Saturday’s start of the Lunar New Year holiday is expected to bring an influx of Chinese travelers.
“The outbreak of coronavirus is a risk. The strong Thai baht may also affect tourism growth, ” said Tim Leelahaphan, economist of Standard Chartered.
“That is unlikely to help an already-slowing economy, ” he said adding he expected the central bank to cut its policy rate by a quarter point in the first quarter. - Reuters/Xinhua/Asian News Network
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