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BANGKOK (Reuters) - The number of foreign tourists visiting Thailand rose by up to 5 percent in the period January to June 2017, the country's tourism minister said on Wednesday, compared with the same period last year.
Tourism, along with exports, is one of Thailand's main economic sectors and is a big employer in the Southeast Asian nation.
Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said Thailand saw around 18 million tourist arrivals in the first half of 2017.
"Right now it is around 18 million," Kobkarn told Reuters, adding that the figure was partly driven by medical tourism.
With its world-class hospitals, Thailand, and in particular the capital Bangkok, is a medical hub that caters mostly to visitors from the Middle East and countries in Asia, as well as expatriates from Europe, Australia and North America.
Thailand expects to welcome a record number of foreign tourists in 2017.
Reporting by Aukkarapon Niyomyat; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Jacqueline Wong