Tourist arrivals plummet 44.3% in February due to coronavirus

Tourist arrivals plummet 44.3% in February due to coronavirus

An aerial photo shows unused tourist buses parked on a lot near Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok on Sunday. (AFP)
An aerial photo shows unused tourist buses parked on a lot near Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok on Sunday. (AFP)

The number of tourist arrivals in Thailand fell 44.3% in February from a year earlier, due to the coronavirus epidemic, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said on Monday.

Visitors from China, Thailand's biggest source of tourists, tumbled 85.3%, TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn told a meeting of tourism operators.

In the worst-case scenario, the number of foreign tourists may fall to 30 million this year from last year's 39.8 million, with spending down 22%, "if the virus situation bottoms in May," he said.

Just last week, Mr Yuthasak said tourist numbers might drop by 6 million this year.

Tourism is crucial to Thailand as spending by foreign visitors amounted to 1.93 trillion baht last year, or 11% of gross domestic product (GDP).

The government said last week it will seek cabinet approval on Tuesday for a $3.2 billion stimulus package to ease the virus impact.

But Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Monday there would be no such cash handouts.

Southeast Asia's second-largest economy may grow less than 1% this year, Thanavath Phonvichai, dean and economics professor of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, told reporters on Monday.

Growth in 2019 was 2.4%, the lowest in 5 years.

The central bank will closely monitor global oil prices and financial market developments and discuss them at its monetary policy review on March 25, Assistant Governor Chantavarn Sucharitakul said in a text message to reporters.

The central bank last month cut its key rate by a quarter point to a record low 1.0%. Most economists expect further easing this month. 


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