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Thailand could welcome as many as 10 million tourists during this year if the current influx of tourist numbers continues, a move that could help spur the tourism industry, a key backbone to the economy that has been hammered due to the impact from the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus.
“Our aim is to raise the tourism numbers to 7-10 million from initial projection of 2-3 million tourists,” 2014 coup leader and incumbent Prime Minister told the parliament during the no-confidence debate late yesterday.
Prayut, who was trying to defend against the allegations made by the opposition for the past 2-days of grounding the Thai economy to its knees, said that his efforts to lure more tourists into the country was being hampered by the shortage of aircrafts, rising fuel prices that have pushed up ticket prices and the continued restrictions from Thailand’s largest tourist market – China.
China, which accounted for nearly a quarter of all tourists arriving in Thailand, which had hit an all time high of just under 40 million in 2019 has seen the numbers dwindle to just 428,000 people visiting in 2021, although the numbers had risen to just over 2 million at the end of June 2022.
Tourism, that accounts for about 15% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), has started to see revival after Thailand lifted all restrictions on inbound tourists since July 1, 2022.
“We are very well aware of the problems of shortage of aircrafts and we are looking at all solutions,” he told the parliament.
Prayut, who tried to defend his 8-years in office since the coup said that the country’s economic situation was improving and that pandemic and global events are not helping in the efforts of the government to be able to revive the economy.
“You all have said that I have brought the industry is on its knees, from a 3 trillion Baht industry to 0.3 trillion Baht, can I ask you, there were 40 million people visiting pre-covid, but during Covid-19 all things were shut, airports around the world were shut, aircrafts were not flying, therefore it is obvious that there would be less tourists,” he said.
“Allegations have been made that the tourism sector has been damaged due to the lockdown, but even if we had opened, not many would be coming to Thailand as there was a sense of fear of being infected.”
He added that the talks of collecting money from tourists is not true, and it is not to be implemented yet.
“This issue has been pushed off ‘indefinitely’ we have been trying to access why do we need it,” he said.
The so called ‘Thailand Tourism Fee’ was supposed to have been implemented in Q2 then moved to Q3 this year. The move involved Thailand collecting 300 Baht from each arriving tourist (and foreign nationals residing in Thailand).
All this he said would help revive the country’s GDP and help it to sustain any major impact from a global slowdown that is expected.
“The government has only 250 days remaining in power and it will do all it can in its power to help people get out of the economic problems,” he added.