BANGKOK – A deadly bombing in August threatened to scuttle Thailand’s economically crucial tourism industry but officials are now forecasting more than 30 million visitors this year as arrivals from China swell.
The bounce back reinforces the teflon reputation of Thai tourism, which has thrived over the past decade despite two coups, episodes of deadly street fighting, airport occupations and natural disasters.
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Thailand’s tourism council is forecasting a record 30.3 million visitors this year, an increase of 22 per cent from last year. Chinese tourists are expected to total 8.1 million, rising by three quarters from 2014.
Only a small number of countries attract more than 30 million tourists a year, among them France, China, the United States, Spain and Turkey. Thailand was aiming for 28.8 million tourists this year.
The tourism council president Ittirit Kinglek said this week the Aug. 17 bombing at a shrine in downtown Bangkok that killed 20 people, many of them foreign visitors, did “not significantly affect” the industry overall.
Tour operators say Thailand’s resilience reflects the variety it offers from high-end shopping in busy Bangkok to idyllic beaches in the south and laid back small cities in the north.
Thailand has also cultivated a reputation for friendliness and value that is particularly appealing in countries such as China, which has only recently reached income levels high enough for large numbers of people to travel abroad on holidays.
“I feel like a real rich person there, and a lot of good food, best service,” said Liang Jing, a designer based in Shanghai. “I feel safe. No war, no anti-China stuff. A great country, I will definitely go there again,” she said.