Thailand cuts 2017 tourism forecast

File: A group of South Africans have been stuck in Phuket for nearly a month due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

File: A group of South Africans have been stuck in Phuket for nearly a month due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

eNCA/Estelle Bronkhorst

BANGKOK - Thailand's tourism minister on Thursday said the country expects 33 to 34 million visitors this year, down from an earlier ministry forecast of 35 million.

"Right now Thailand has welcomed 27 million already this year so I think for the whole year we should get 33 to 34 ," tourism minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul told reporters. She did not give a reason for the downwardly-revised forecast.

That would still be a record for Thailand, which welcomed 32.6 million foreign visitors in 2016, driven largely by Chinese tourists.

Thailand is heavily dependent on its tourism industry which accounts for around 12 percent of the economy.

Thailand has seen at least two coups over the past decade and several natural disasters, including nationwide floods in 2011 which crippled industry, but those events have failed to dent travellers' enthusiasm for the Southeast Asian country.