Bank of Thailand governor Sethaput Suthiwartnarueput (photo supplied)
The economy is expected to return to pre-Covid-19 levels in the first quarter of 2023 and its recovery will be slower than some other countries in the region, the governor of the Bank of Thailand (BoT) told a business forum on Thursday.
"Recovery will be slow and uneven ... because Covid hit us in the soft underbelly in the tourism sector," BoT Governor Sethaput Suthiwartnarueput said.
Tourism accounted for about 12% of gross domestic product before the coronavirus pandemic. In 2019, Thailand recorded 40 million foreign arrivals, but the number has slumped to about 200,000 so far this year.
About six million tourists are expected next year, he said.
The central bank has said it expects the economy to grow about 0.7% this year and recover further to expand 3.9% next year.
The recovery will be uneven because the rebound of service sectors related to tourism will be sluggish and the Omicron variant had made the outlook more uncertain, Mr Sethaput said.
Other sectors like manufacturing, especially businesses tied to exports, are back to or have exceeded pre-pandemic levels, he said.
The government previously forecast exports would grow 17% in 2021, the highest in 12 years.
Mr Sethaput said downside risks, such as rising inflation and monetary tightening by major central banks, were "fairly manageable" due to Thailand's external buffers.