Skift Take

Chinese travelers, freed from the constraints of the country's zero-Covid policy, are poised to give Thailand a big tourism boost this year.

Thailand’s finance ministry on Friday maintained its economic growth outlook for 2023 at 3.8 percent, helped by a rebound in tourism and domestic demand, but an official said exports would slow down this year.

Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy likely expanded 3 percent in 2022, down from a previous forecast of 3.4 percent, as exports, public investment, and private consumption slowed, Pornchai Thiraveja, head of the ministry’s fiscal policy office, told a briefing.

Official gross domestic product (GDP) figures for 2022 are due to be released next month. In 2021, GDP grew 1.5 percent, among the lowest rates in the region.

“The economy continues to recover, with 2022 growth returning to pre-COVID levels … therefore, fiscal measures will only be used as necessary and will be targeted,” Pornchai said.

“The tourism sector has picked up steadily as the world has relaxed international travel measures,” he added.

Thailand’s economic recovery has lagged that of other Southeast Asian nations, with the crucial tourism sector just starting to rebound last year with 11.15 million foreign tourist arrivals.

Since the new year began, Thailand has booked 1.34 million foreign tourists.

The country is expected to receive 27.5 million foreign arrivals this year, up from 21.5 million projected earlier, helped by China’s reopening, Pornchai said.

The government is expecting at least 5 million Chinese visitors this year, about half of the figure in pre-pandemic 2019.

Overall foreign tourist arrivals reached a record of nearly 40 million in 2019, with spending at 1.91 trillion baht ($58.07 billion). Tourism accounted for about 12 percent of GDP.

However, exports, another key driver of growth, could increase just 0.4 percent this year, rather than rise 2.5 percent as projected earlier due to a global slowdown, Pornchai said.

A stronger baht is not helping exports. The ministry predicted the baht to average 32.5 per dollar this year after 35.07 last year, as Thailand is among countries that are expected to have a continued economic recovery, Pornchai said.

Average headline inflation is expected at 2.8 percent this year, Pornchai said, down from a 24-year high of 6.08 percent last year, which was far above the central bank’s target range of 1 percent to 3 percent. ($1 = 32.89 baht)

(Reporting by Orathai Sriring, Kitiphong Thaichareon and Satawasin Staporncharnchai Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor)

This article was written by Kitiphong Thaichareon and Orathai Sriring from Reuters and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

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Tags: china, coronavirus recovery, thailand

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