BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) – Thailand expects to net about 400 billion baht (S$15.3 billion) from a surge in foreign tourist arrivals in the second half as leisure travelers return to the South-east Asian country following the easing of most Covid-19 curbs.

About 7.5 million international travelers are expected to travel to tourist hotspots such as Bangkok, Phuket and Koh Samui between July and December, a 1,840 per cent jump from a year earlier, according to Ms Rachada Dhnadirek, a deputy government spokesman. That will propel the full-year arrivals to 10 million, she said.

Thailand, like most tourism-reliant countries, is benefiting from a rebound in global travel demand with authorities scrapping all pandemic-era restrictions that kept visitors out for almost two years. The better-than-expected recovery in tourism has prompted the central bank and other government agencies to raise estimates on arrivals, helping cushion the blow to South-east Asia’s second-biggest economy from multi-year high inflation and slowing exports.

“Government incentives and measures will further accelerate the recovery in the country’s tourism industry,” Ms Rachada said in a statement on Tuesday (Aug 30). Still, a persisting Covid outbreak, Ukraine-Russia tension and inflation are seen as key obstacles for Thailand’s tourism recovery, she added.

The return of holidaymakers has also fueled registration of new tourism-related businesses. Almost 550 new businesses sought permission in the first seven months, up 169 per cent from a year earlier, Ms Rachada said, citing the commerce ministry’s data.

Thailand will permit tourists from more than 50 countries to extend their stay in the country up to 45 days between October and March to lure more visitors and support the economic recovery, the government said earlier this month.

Before the pandemic, the tourism industry contributed about 12 per cent to Thailand’s gross domestic product and 20 per cent of overall jobs. Almost 40 million foreign tourists visited Thailand in 2019, generating more than US$60 billion in revenue, according to the central bank.