BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand’s tourism body expects 300,000 visitors from China during the Lunar New Year holidays, a nearly 18 percent rise from a year ago.
During the same holidays in 2017, the number of visitors from China was hit by a Thai government crackdown on budget tourism and the mourning period for the country’s late king.
Tourism accounts for about 12 percent of gross domestic product in Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, making it one of the most important drivers of growth. The biggest number of foreign visitors come from China.
Chinese tourists during the Lunar New Year period, which this year begins on Feb. 15 and lasts until Feb. 21, will “generate about 8 billion baht ($253.9 million) in revenue”, Santi Chudintra, a deputy governor at the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) told reporters on Monday.
In 2017, about 255,000 Chinese tourists visited during the Lunar New Year.
Thailand’s Tourism Ministry said last month it expected this year’s tourist arrivals to hit a record 37.55 million, with 2.1 trillion baht spending.
Chinese tourists, who accounted for nearly one-third of last year’s record 35 million arrivals, are expected to rise this year to around 10 million from 9.8 million.
Thailand has become increasingly popular with Chinese tourists in recent years. The country is also home to one of the world’s largest ethnic Chinese communities.
In late 2016, Thailand launched a crackdown against “zero-dollar” package tours - an arrangement where tourists pay for everything upfront and in theory spend nothing while in the country. The tourism ministry said the campaign, which ended in 2017, was a success.
($1 = 31.51 baht)
Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre