BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand is expected to see at most 8 million foreign tourists this year, down 80% from a year earlier, as the coronavirus pandemic curbs global travel, a tourism body said on Tuesday.
The sector is expected to recover in 2021, Chairat Triratanajaraspon, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, an industry group, told reporters.
Last year, Thailand attracted a record 39.8 million foreign tourists, whose spending accounted for about 11% of Thai GDP.
Earlier this week, Bangkok lifted the ban on international flights, but only for passengers that meet certain requirements.
The tourism council urged the government to sign travel agreements with other countries that have contained coronavirus outbreaks, like China, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea.
Thailand on Tuesday marked 36 days without a case of local transmission.
“The opening only accounts for 5% of inbound travel and the rest are tourists. In the third quarter, if there are no new measures, it will be zero,” said the tourism council’s vice president, Wichit Prakobkosol.
He added that 1.6 trillion baht ($51.78 billion) of revenues could be wiped out this year.
The government is looking to boost the industry with domestic tourism, targeting 80 to 100 million trips, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn told a separate briefing. There were 166.84 million domestic trips last year, government data shows.
Thailand previously approved a $722 million stimulus to boost domestic travel to cushion the industry.
The support for domestic travel will be rolled out in mid-July, he said.
The first group of foreign arrivals from “travel bubble” arrangements could arrive in one to two months, TAT deputy governor Chutchant Kunchorn Na Ayutthaya said, without naming any countries.
The TAT is targeting 10 to 12 million foreign arrivals this year.
Reporting by Satawasin Staporncharnchai and Chayut Setboonsarng; Writing by Orathai Sriring; Editing by Ed Davies and Catherine Evans