Thailand's foreign arrivals to return to pre-pandemic level in few years
However, for the year 2021, Thailand is expected to receive 8 million foreign visitors as the country begins to recover from a grim economy shattered by coronavirus, the minister said.
Thailand, which according to the Bank of Thailand (BoT), is Southeast Asia's second-largest economy, contracted 6.4 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier after slumping 12.1 percent in the prior quarter, with tourism taking a huge toll due to global air restrictions and the shut-down of international borders.
The finance minister said he expects the Thai economy to take two years to recover, but four years for tourism to blossom at the pre-pandemic level.
Arkhom however said that if the coronavirus vaccine proves its efficacy, then global tourism will begin to spur, which then can help Thailand expedite its tourism sector quickly, the minister said.
Thailand only recently started receiving a limited number of tourists under the government's Special Tourist Visa (STV) program with mandatory quarantine requirement.
Meanwhile, The Tourism Authority of Thailand expects foreign tourist numbers to plunge to 6.7 million this year from 39.8 million in 2019 before recovering to 20.5 million next year. This compares with the BoT's estimate for 9 million tourists in 2021. ■