Thailand welcomes highest number of foreign visitors since start of COVID-19

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Thailand welcomed 11.2 million foreign tourists in 2022, the highest number since COVID-19 emerged, as the tourism-dependent Southeast 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 ($58 billion), according to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports data.

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The government’s target of drawing 25 million overseas holidaymakers in 2023 stands to gain momentum now that China has abandoned its COVID-19 zero 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 February 6.

Thailand expects seven to 10 million Chinese travelers 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.

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

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