By Panarat Thepgumpanat
BANGKOK – Thailand’s prime minister is confident the country will receive more than 30 million foreign tourists this year as the economically vital tourism sector gathers steam, a government spokesperson said on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has instructed relevant agencies to facilitate visitors with travel and ensure their safety, spokesperson Anucha Burapachaisri told a briefing.
Initially, the government predicted more than 20 million foreign tourists this year and later increased that to 28 million, he said.
“Most recently, the prime minister is confident that tourist numbers will even exceed 30 million,” Anucha said.
The latest projection follows China’s border reopening and the return of Chinese tourists.
Thailand now expects at least 7 to 8 million Chinese visitors this year, up from a previous forecast of at least 5 million, Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, a government body, told Reuters.
“Earlier, we didn’t think China would also allow group tours…now we are seeing at least 7 to 8 million people,” he said.
The new forecast would be more than half the 11 million Chinese visitors recorded in pre-pandemic 2019.
Up until Feb. 2 of this year, Thailand received 99,429 Chinese tourists, Yuthasak said.
Overall foreign tourist arrivals were around 2.1 million in January, he added.
In 2022, Thailand beat its tourism target with 11.15 million foreign visitors, a surge from just about 428,000 the previous year when broad pandemic-related travel curbs were in place.
Pre-pandemic 2019 saw a record of nearly 40 million foreign tourists, who spent 1.91 trillion baht ($56.78 billion).
($1 = 33.6400 baht)