BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand expects to generate 1.23 trillion baht ($39.5 billion) in tourism revenue this year, mainly driven by local holiday makers, the tourism minister said on Friday, after a drop in international tourism due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The cabinet recently approved a $722 million package of measures to boost domestic tourism and ease travel restrictions in the country in the wake of the pandemic.
In the first five months of the year, Thailand booked tourism revenue of 350 billion baht.
Tourism is crucial to the economy, although much of it comes from international visitors. A record 39.8 million foreign tourists visited the country last year and spent 1.93 trillion baht, accounting for 11% of the country’s GDP.
The Ministry only expects 3.3 million foreign tourists for the rest of this year, however, after recording 6.7 million in the first five months.
The Tourism Council of Thailand, an industry group, on Tuesday urged the government to sign “travel bubble” agreements with other countries over fears that revenue would further decline.
Foreign travelers will initially include medical tourists who have a history of treatment in Thailand, Minister of Tourism and Sports Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said.
For general tourists the government is in discussion with its coronavirus task force, he said, adding that if the pandemic situation improves the ministry could propose allowing in more tourists in August and September.
Initially, foreign tourists would be focused on islands like Koh Tao and Phuket and would not be required to observe a 14-day quarantine although they would have to be virus-free, he said.
Thailand has recorded 3,180 infections and 58 deaths, but no local transmission cases for 39 days.
($1 = 31.1100 baht)
Reporting by Kitiphong Thaichareon; Writing by Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Hugh Lawson