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* Zero foreign tourists recorded since April
* Foreign arrivals seen plunging 80% this year
* Thailand to allow visits that include quarantine
* 2 million tourists expected Oct-March
BANGKOK, Aug 24 (Reuters) – Thailand’s tourist arrivals and spending saw a year-on-year slide of about 70% in the first seven months, data showed on Monday, as a fourth month of border closures aimed at keeping out COVID-19 took a bite out of its struggling economy.
In the January-July period, foreign tourist numbers were 6.69 million, down 71% year on year, with spending down 70.4% from a year earlier to 332 billion baht ($10.56 billion).
Thailand, which had a record 39.8 million tourist arrivals last year, has recorded zero foreign visitors since April when it imposed a travel ban. In July 2019 alone, there were 3.33 million tourists who spent around 167 billion baht.
The tourism-reliant economy shrank at its deepest annual pace in the second quarter since the 1998 Asian crisis as the outbreak battered global travel and activity.
It has extended a state of emergency until the end of September, despite having among Asia’s lowest coronavirus case numbers and no domestic transmission for three months.
Thailand will from October allow foreign tourists to visit the resort island of Phuket for long stays that must include a quarantine period, which replaces plans for “travel bubbles” between certain countries amid a resurgence of the virus in parts of Asia.
On Monday, Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn told reporters that 2 million foreign visitors were expected between October and March, as other parts of the country adopt similar arrangements to Phuket.
Thailand expects to receive 8 million foreign tourists this year, down 80% from last year. Spending by foreign visitors accounted for 11.4% of GDP last year.
The state planning agency this month said there were about 2 million job losses as a result of the tourism slump.
$1 = 31.45 baht Editing by Martin Petty
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