Foreign tourist arrivals could reach 8 million this year after recording higher numbers over the past few months, says the governor of the Bank of Thailand.
The number of foreign travellers entering Thailand has risen to around 30,000 per day. If the increase in numbers continues until the end of this year, international tourist arrivals for 2022 could reach 8 million, higher than the central bank's forecast of 6 million, Sethaput Suthiwartnarueput, governor of the Bank of Thailand, said at a seminar on the economic outlook in the South on Monday.
According to the central bank's economic data in May, there were 1.31 million foreign tourist arrivals during the first five months of this year. The numbers for May alone surged to 521,410, from 293,350 in April and 210,836 in March.
Mr Sethaput said every extra million foreign tourists increases the country's GDP by 0.4%. As a result, the tourism sector is a key factor supporting the country's economic rebound.
Given the current Thai economic recovery, the central bank will continue to maintain momentum through monetary policy normalisation. But the normalisation will be conducted gradually with a focus on both a normalised process and flexible normalisation.
The central bank will not embark on hawkish policy rate moves, unlike the US Federal Reserve, as the central banks were operating in different contexts.
Mr Sethaput said his central bank wanted to see a smooth take-off of the Thai economy, while the Fed was trying to ensure the US economy had a soft landing.
Moreover, the Bank of Thailand would mainly concentrate on targeted actions rather than blanket financial assistance measures.
In addition, Mr Sethaput said the economy of Thailand's southern region was recovering, but lagging the country's overall growth rate.
Because of its heavy reliance on service and tourism, the southern economic recovery is slower than the overall Thai economy.
The southern region's labour market has been adversely impacted by the pandemic. Of the South's overall labour market, 20% are in the service and tourism sector, while 11% are in manufacturing.
The Thai economy contracted 6.4% in the third quarter of last year, while the economy of the South shrank by 12%. However, both the country's overall economy and the southern economy have been gradually recovering.
Mr Sethaput said the Bank of Thailand continues to maintain targeted financial aid measures including recovery loans and an asset warehousing scheme to help pandemic-hit borrowers.
The central bank's 320-billion-baht soft loan and recovery loan programme has seen 14% of the total extended to business operators in the South.
Financial aid extended to borrowers through the asset warehousing scheme stands at around 50 billion baht, of which 36% has been provided to southern businesses.