Thailand tourist numbers rise nearly nine percent in 2016

BANGKOK (Reuters) - The number of foreign tourists visiting Thailand rose nearly 9 percent to 32.6 million in 2016, bringing in 1.64 trillion baht ($45.9 billion) worth of business, up nearly 13 percent from 2015, according to data released by the Tourism Ministry on Thursday.

The rise, just beating the ministry’s forecast of 32.4 million visitors, came despite the mourning period for Thailand’s late king, a number of bombings in resorts, cases of the Zika virus and a crackdown on some low budget Chinese tours.

Tourism has been a rare bright spot for Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, with exports sluggish exports and domestic demand subdued since the military seized power in 2014 coup to end political unrest.

The ministry said almost a third of its total international arrivals in 2016 came from China, with 8.87 million Chinese visitors, making for an increase of 11.8 percent from 2015.

Reporting By Pairat Temphairojana; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore