BANGKOK, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) -- Thailand received over 19 million foreign tourists between January and mid-September, representing a 271-percent year-on-year increase, official data showed on Tuesday.
As of last week, the Southeast Asian country earned more than 795 billion baht (about 22.08 billion U.S. dollars) in revenue from foreign visitors who were mainly from Malaysia, China, South Korea and India, according to data released by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports.
The number of tourist arrivals showed signs of improvement this week due to long weekends in Malaysia and Japan, and increased visitors from short-haul countries within the Asian market, the ministry said in a statement.
Beginning next Monday, Thailand will grant a temporary tourist visa exemption to passport holders from China and Kazakhstan until the end of February 2024 in support of its vital tourism industry during the peak season.
The visa-free entry scheme is expected to help revive Thai tourism and achieve the whole-year target of 25 million to 30 million inbound visitors with 2.38 trillion baht in revenue, said Thapanee Kiatphaibool, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, in a separate statement.
She noted that the kingdom is expected to welcome up to 4.4 million visitors from China in 2023, with revenue of 257 billion baht generated from Chinese tourists.
In pre-COVID 2019, Chinese tourists accounted for about 28 percent of the nearly 40 million foreign tourists to Thailand. Tourism, the key driver of the nation's economic growth, accounts for about 12 percent of its gross domestic product. (1 baht equals 0.028 USD) ■