The number of tourists arriving in Thailand rose for the third straight month in December, increasing 11.76 per cent from the same period a year earlier, as the sector continues to recover from months of political unrest that led to an army coup in May.
Foreign tourists were 2.84 million in December, up from 2.44 million in November, Department of Tourism data showed.
In 2014, the number of foreign arrivals dropped about 6.7 per cent from 2013 to 24.78 million.
Tourism, which accounts for about 10 per cent of the Thai economy, suffered its biggest drop in June 2014, the first full month after the coup. It started to recover in October, helped by free visas for Chinese — Thailand’s biggest visitors.
In November, tourist arrivals rose 2.5 per cent from the same month in 2013, when political tensions began and tourist numbers increased 10.9 per cent year-on-year.
For 2015, the government expects 29 million tourists to visit the “Land of Smiles,” home to some of Asia’s best beaches, Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul has said.
Ittirit Kinglek, president of Tourism Council of Thailand, said he expects 28.36 million tourists this year as “the political situation is more stable.”
Ittirit also told Reuters the formation of a single market in Southeast Asia, planned to begin this year, should draw more visitors to Thailand.
Surapong Techruvichit, president of Thai Hotel Association, is still cautious, predicting overall hotel occupancy rates this year to rise 5-10 per cent from last year’s 65-70 per cent.
“The overall situation should be the same as last year’s. It’s not really a good year this year,” he told Reuters.
Thailand is still under martial law after the coup and several countries have kept in place travel warnings on the country.
With exports weak and domestic demand still subdued, the military government launched a “Discover Thainess” campaign this week to promote the tourism sector to help support the struggling economy.
Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy grew only 0.2 per cent in January-September 2014 and full-year growth is likely to be less than 1 per cent, the weakest since devastating flooding of 2011. — Reuters
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