Tourist entries jump 12%, Chinese visitors leading the pack

A Chinese tourist shields her head from the sun with a scarf during a visit to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. (Post Today photo)

Almost 19.5 million foreign tourists visited Thailand in the first half of this year, a 12% increase from the same period of last year, the Tourism and Sports Ministry said on Wednesday.

The country saw 19.48 million foreigners coming to the kingdom during the January-June period, a 12% gain, with visitors from China on top with 6 million, the latest ministry figures showed.

The number of Chinese tourists surpassed the combined figures of all visitors from Southeast Asian countries.

The tourism sector accounted for around 10% of gross domestic product and remains a driving force for the economy.

The country targeted 37 million tourists this year, 2 million more than 2017. Last year 9.8 million Chinese visitors came to the country.

Favourite destinations for the Chinese include Phuket, Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

The boat tragedy on July 5 took 47 Chinese lives after the Phoenix dive boat capsized off the Phuket coast. The disaster led to tourists from China cancelling 7,300 hotel rooms on the island.

Pongpanu Svetarundra, permanent secretary for tourism and sports, on Wednesday remained confident that this year’s target for Chinese tourists — 11 million — was still attainable, with compensation offered to the injured and to the families of those killed, as well as measures to boost visitors’ sense of security.

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