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Tourism Minister confident in continuing tourist arrivals in Thailand

Tourism Minister Sontaya Kunplome dismissed suggestions that tourism numbers could slump this year as a result of the latest round of violence in the southern border region,…

Tourism Minister Sontaya Kunplome dismissed suggestions that tourism numbers could slump this year as a result of the latest round of violence in the southern border region, pointing to newly released figures showing an increase in visitor arrivals at Bangkok`s Don Muang Airport throughout April.

In the last three days of April, when violence occurred in the south, we still had an average of 24,400 visitor arrivals, up from 10,800 during the same period last year, and 19,200 in 2002, Mr. Sontaya said.

The latest figures from the Immigration Police Bureau show that last month 625,998 tourists arrived at Don Muang Airport, up an impressive 62 percent from the same period in 2003, when tourism numbers had been slashed by fears over Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, and up 8.3 percent from the same period in 2002.

Nonetheless, while predicting steady growth for Thailand`s tourism industry, Mr. Sontaya called on the public and private sectors to avoid complacency, warning that both the southern situation and fears over global terrorism could serve to pull down tourist numbers.

On 5 May the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is due to meet with a number of private sector tourism associations to assess the latest tourism situation and draw up approaches to stimulate the tourism market for the remainder of the year.

The tourism minister also observed today that during a recent visit to Singapore, he had spoken with members of Singapore`s business community, who had not displayed any particular fears over travel to Thailand.

Similar reports were pouring in from across Asia, whether Japan, Korea or Hong Kong, he said, adding that TAT officials were working to ensure that trading partners understood the situation.

Meanwhile, the KASIKORN Research Centre said in a report released to TNA today that the tourism business in Pattaya would have much more rooms to grow , with tourists expected to spend over 40 billion baht annually in the eastern resort city.

The leading think tank noted that the tourism industry in Pattaya had, actually, been expanding over the last few years, boosted by such positive factors as convenient transportation, low costs of living, and varieties in tourism products, which had attracted both local and foreign tourists to the wellknown resort city.

Following last week`s violence in Thailand`s southern border region, Pattaya now becomes another promising choice of travellers wanting to visit the country`s coastal tourist sites.

Over two million visitors are estimated to visit Pattaya each year, with cash circulation in its local tourism business reaching over 40 billion baht annually.

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