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UPDATE 1-Thailand eyes 50,000 foreign tourists in Q4, down 99.5% -industry

(Adds outlook, comments)

BANGKOK, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Thailand is expected to have 50,000 foreign tourists in the fourth quarter of 2020, down 99.5% from a year earlier, an industry body said on Wednesday, as the country tries to support its battered economy by gradually reopening to visitors.

Foreign tourist receipts are seen at 4.5 billion baht ($142 million) in the quarter, down 99% year-on-year, Chairat Trirattanajarasporn, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, told a briefing.

The council predicts 6.74 million foreign tourists this year, down 83% from a year earlier, after a record 39.8 million visitors last year, he said.

Next year’s outlook remains uncertain, Chairat said, although the official tourism agency predicts 20 million foreign tourist in 2021.

“If there is no vaccine and we still have a 14-day quarantine, I expect only hundreds of thousands of tourists next year,” he said.

Thailand has had relatively few coronavirus infections compared to most countries and halted foreign tourism and commercial flights in April to try to keep the virus out.

It is due to start receiving its first long-stay foreign vacationers next week to help a key sector devastated by travel restrictions.

The industry will propose the government to allow more foreign tourists from very low-risk countries, to return in December with no 14-day quarantine, said Vichit Prakobgosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents. ($1 = 31.67 baht)

Reporting by Satawasin Staporncharnchai Writing by Orathai Sriring Editing by Ed Davies and Martin Petty