The Tourism and Sports Ministry has cut its foreign arrivals forecast to 39-39.8 million this year, down from 40.2 million.
Affected by global tension, Thai tourism in the first half this year saw foreign arrivals grow only 1.4% to 19.7 million, prompting the ministry to shave its target in July from 41.3 million to 40.2 million.
Tourism and sports minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said he is confident the new projection is achievable as the government has been working to offer incentives to foreign visitors.
The minister said though the proposal to provide visa exemptions for visitors from China and India was not considered by the cabinet ministers on Tuesday, he would continue to discuss concerns about security with related state agencies, hoping to reach a conclusion within 1-2 weeks.
Mr Phiphat said the cabinet is continuing to promote tourism from the remainder of this year through next year by extending the 2,000-baht waiver of visa-on-arrival fees to 19 nations, which already covers China and India, until April 30, 2020, from Oct 31, 2019.
Also on the list are Bulgaria, Bhutan, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Malta, Mexico, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Uzbekistan and Vanuatu.
Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the cabinet believes the incentive will help draw some 20 million foreign tourists in the second half, maintaining tourism momentum to support the country’s 3% GDP growth this year.
Despite a decrease in foreign arrivals, especially from China, Mr. Yuthasak is positive that the goal of 3.38 trillion baht in tourism revenue this year is reachable. The value is a 9.5% increase from last year.
Meanwhile, the latest statistics of the Thailand Tourism Intelligence Centre report 23.1 million foreign tourists visited Thailand in the first seven months this year, up by 1.94% year-on-year.
China still accounts for the biggest portion with 6.63 million visitors, a contraction of 3.3%, followed by Malaysia with
2.24 million, up 6.2%, and India 1.14 million, up 24%.
Although the Chinese market remains weak, Mr. Yuthasak said there were positive signs for the third and fourth quarters this year as TAT offices in China reported strong advanced bookings of airline seats to Thailand next month.
He is confident some 11 million Chinese travelers will visit Thailand this year, up from 10.5 million visitors in 2018.