Thai Feb tourist arrivals jump 20 pct y/y - ministry

BANGKOK, March 12 (Reuters) - Thailand saw a 20 percent increase in foreign tourists in February from a year earlier, led by visitors from China, the government said on Monday.

There were 3.6 million foreign tourists in February, up from 2.99 million visitors in the same period last year, Pongpanu Svetarundra, permanent-secretary of the tourism and sports ministry, told Reuters.

Thailand saw 3.54 million visitors in January.

In the January-February period, foreign tourists spent about 400 billion baht ($12.78 billion), he said.

Tourism receipts account for about 12 percent of Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, making it one of the most important drivers of Thailand’s growth.

The ministry expects 37.55 million foreign visitors to spend 2.1 trillion baht this year, after welcoming a record 35.38 million foreign tourists last year. ($1 = 31.3000 baht)

Reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak Writing by Orathai Sriring; Editing by Biju Dwarakanath