BANGKOK — Thailand received a group of tourists from China on Tuesday, its first such arrivals since a ban on commercial flights was imposed in April to combat the coronavirus pandemic, a senior official said, as street demonstrations escalate.
Thirty-nine tourists from Shanghai arrived at the country’s main Suvarnabhumi Airport, the airport’s deputy director, Kittipong Kittikachorn, said in a statement.
The announcement came as anti-government protesters continue to defy a ban on gatherings after authorities declared Bangkok to be in a severe emergency situation.
However, the unrest has not impacted interest in the country, Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Yuthasak Supasorn told Reuters.
“There have been no cancellations or any inquiries about it so far and people are following the news,” he said.
Student-led rallies, sometimes drawing 10,000 people, have occupied busy intersections for hours before peacefully dispersing.
In one incident, water cannons were used on demonstrators.
The tourism-reliant country could see just 6.7 million foreign visitors this year, the government predicts, after a record 39.8 million in 2019, when their spending made up 11.4% of GDP, or 1.93 trillion baht ($61.6 billion).
The government in April banned commercial flights to keep the coronavirus at bay and new cases in Thailand have mostly been Thais returning home. It has reported a total of 3,700 infections.
New tourist arrivals are on special 90-day visas and must stay in quarantine for two weeks and test negative three times before they can move around freely.
“What we want now are quality tourists who stay for a long time,” Mr. Yuthasak said.
A second batch of 147 tourists from Guangzhou, China, are due to arrive on Oct. 26, with more due next month.
“We are in discussions with groups to come from Europe in November,” he added. — Chayut Setboonsarng/Reuters