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Thailand tourist arrivals in February fall 44.3% due to coronavirus
[BANGKOK] The number of tourist arrivals in Thailand fell 44.3 per cent in February from a year earlier due to the coronavirus epidemic, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said on Monday.
Visitors from China, Thailand's biggest source of tourists, tumbled 85.3 per cent, TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn told a meeting of tourism operators.
In the worst-case scenario, the number of foreign tourists may fall to 30 million this year from last year's 39.8 million, with spending down 22 per cent, "if the virus situation bottoms in May", he said.
Just last week, Mr Yuthasak said tourist numbers might drop by six million this year.
Tourism is crucial to Thailand as spending by foreign visitors amounted to 1.93 trillion baht (S$84.52 billion) last year, or 11 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).
The government said last week it will seek Cabinet approval on Tuesday for a US$3.2 billion stimulus package to ease the virus impact.
But Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Monday there would be no such cash handouts.
South-east Asia's second-largest economy may grow less than 1 per cent this year, Thanavath Phonvichai, dean and economics professor of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, told reporters on Monday.
Growth in 2019 was 2.4 per cent, the lowest in five years.
The central bank will closely monitor global oil prices and financial market developments and discuss them at its monetary policy review on March 25, assistant governor Chantavarn Sucharitakul said in a text message to reporters.
The central bank last month cut its key rate by a quarter point to a record low 1 per cent. Most economists expect further easing this month.