Thailand hoping to attract wealthier travellers | Singapore Informer

It may have made its name as the ultimate backpacker destination but Thailand hopes to attract a more well-heeled kind of traveller in the future, its tourism minister said Friday, as the kingdom announced record arrivals for 2015.The vital tourism industry remains one of the few economic brightspots following a year in which the junta-led government has struggled to kickstart the kingdom’s stumbling economy.By the end of the year Thailand will have received more than 29.6 million foreign visitors, Minister for Tourism and Sports Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul told reporters.”Our goal is to focus on quality and how to make tourists stay longer and spend more money,” Kobkarn said, adding officials would target women, luxury holiday makers and sports tourism.This year’s tourist arrivals are a significant jump from the 24.8 million who visited in 2014 — when the country was wracked by months of debilitating street protests and a military coup — and 26.5 million in 2013.”Revenue from the tourism industry accounted for 14.5 percent of our GDP,” Kobkarn said.After years of largely impressive economic expansion during the 1990s and 2000s, Thailand’s growth has significantly slowed, leading some to dub it the sick man of Southeast Asia. Thailand’s planning agency expects this year’s growth to be between 2.7 and 3.2 percent, an improvement on last year’s negligible expansion but still one of the poorest performing economies in Southeast Asia.Some independent economists have suggested growth could be as low as 2.5 percent.Army chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha seized power in May 2014, ousting a democratically elected…

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