Thailand's January tourist arrivals up 15 percent over last year

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BANGKOK (Reuters) - International tourist arrivals in Thailand rose 15 percent in January from a year earlier, government data showed, as the industry continued to expand in a sluggish domestic economy.

Tourism accounts for about 10 percent of Thailand’s gross domestic product.

The growing number of visitors has been one of the few bright spots for Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, which has struggled to find a firm footing since prolonged street protests took the country to the brink of recession in 2014.

Thailand grew 2.8 percent in 2015, up from 0.8 percent in 2014, but slower than the growth rate of its neighbors.

The number of visitors recorded in January 2016 alone was 3 million; travelers from China topped the list, with over 800,000 Chinese arrivals in January. That was up over 250,000 on the year.

Malaysia and South Korea are the second- and third-largest source countries for tourists to Thailand.

The government has forecast a record 32 million arrivals this year, up 7.1 percent from last year’s 29.88 million.

It aims for overall revenue from tourism of 2.4 trillion baht ($67.36 billion), up 9.1 percent from last year.

($1 = 35.63 baht)

Reporting By Pairat Temphairojana; Editing by Simon Webb; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips