BANGKOK — Thailand recorded 2.14 million foreign visitors in January, tourism ministry data showed on Monday, down slightly from the previous month but helped by the return of travelers from China after Beijing removed its COVID-19 restrictions.
January’s figures showed a surge in arrival numbers from 133,828 in January 2022, when entry restrictions were in place in Thailand. It compared with 2.24 million visitors in December and 1.75 million in November.
Tourism is a key source of jobs and driver of Thailand’s economy and was typically worth about 12% of its annual gross domestic product before the pandemic struck and decimated its travel sector.
Tourism started to rebound last year with 11.15 million foreign visitors overall, beating a government target. That was far short of the record of nearly 40 million visitors in pre-pandemic 2019, who spent 1.91 trillion baht ($54.37 billion).
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha was cited as saying this month that the country could see more than 30 million foreign arrivals this year.
The top three source markets in January were Malaysia with 288,745 visitors, Russia with 202,759 and South Korea with 169,462 tourists, the ministry said.
China’s reopening is providing a further boost to the recovery, with the government forecasting 7-8 million Chinese visitors in 2023, compared with the 11 million in 2019.
There were 91,841 Chinese visitors in January, compared with 3,110 in the same period a year earlier, and 54,146 in December, the ministry said in a statement. — Reuters