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A general view of the almost empty departure hall of Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok on March 11, 2020, as visitor numbers have plummeted in the region over the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. -- Pix: AFP)
A general view of the almost empty departure hall of Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok on March 11, 2020, as visitor numbers have plummeted in the region over the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. -- Pix: AFP)

THE number of tourist arrivals in Thailand fell almost 45 per cent in February from a year earlier, due to the Covid-19 epidemic.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said visitors from China, Thailand’s biggest source of tourists, fell 85 per cent last month.

TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn told a meeting of tourism operators that in the worst case scenario, the number of foreign tourists might fall to 30 million this year from last year’s 39.8 million, with spending down 22 per cent.

The Bangkok Post said just last week, Yuthasak had said tourist numbers might drop by six million this year.

Tourism is crucial to the country as spending by foreign visitors amounted to 1.93 trillion baht (RM260 billion) last year, or 11 per cent of its gross domestic product.

University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce dean and economics professor Thanavath Phonvichai said the Thai economy might grow less than one per cent this year.

The central bank assistant governor Chantavarn Sucharitakul said it would monitor global oil prices and financial market developments, and was set to discuss them at its monetary policy review on March 25.

The bank last month cut its key rate by a quarter point to a record low one per cent.

Meanwhile, Thai Airways International (THAI) said it now requires passengers departing from China, Italy and South Korea to present health certificates before they are issued boarding passes.

Its president Sumeth Damrongchaitham said in a statement that passengers joining flights in areas seriously hit by Covid-19 must present the certificates to prove they are free of the disease.

THAI staff would only issue boarding passes to passengers with such certificates and that it was in compliance with an instruction from the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand. It applies to passengers departing from all airports in virus-affected countries that THAI planes visit.

It currently applies to Seoul and Busan in South Korea; Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Shanghai in China; and Milan and Rome in Italy.

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