Tourist arrivals in Thailand have increased from last year, despite a significant decline in Chinese visits since July.
A tourism ministry official reported that the country registered 28,541,887 arrivals for the first nine months of 2018, up 8.71 percent from the same period last year.
A total of 2.65 million foreign tourists visited the country in September, a 2.13 percent increase year-on-year. However, in the same month, the numbers of Chinese visits dipped 14.89 percent to 648,000.
Arrivals from China have dropped since the Phuket boat incident in July, which led to the deaths of 47 Chinese visitors. The ministry expects to lose 669,000 Chinese tourists from July to December.
The Chinese market has been an important contributor to Thailand’s tourism industry. Out of the 35 million foreign visits recorded last year, a third came from China. From January to September 2018, China was also the biggest contributor to foreign arrivals with 8.37 million trips. It was followed by Malaysia with 2.87 million, Korea with 1.33 million and Laos with 1.29 million.
To address the decline, the Thailand government plans to exempt tourists of 21 countries from visa-on-arrival fees in November and December. The move is expected to help boost overall foreign arrivals to 40 million and Chinese arrivals to 12 million, up from the initial targets of 38 million and 10.5 million respectively. The government is also considering waiving the 2000-baht visa fee from Chinese tourists.