BANGKOK (Reuters) -Thailand’s economy is expected to grow by 3% to 3.5% this year and 3% to 4% next year, helped by increased exports and a pickup in the vital tourism sector after reopening the country to visitors, the finance minister said on Saturday.
The Southeast Asian country expects eight million to 10 million foreign tourist arrivals this year, having received five million so far this year, Arkhom Termpittayapaisith told a Radio Thailand programme.
That is far above last year’s 428,000 visitors when the economy grew 1.5%, among the slowest in the region. In 2019 before COVID-19, there were nearly 40 million foreign tourists.
Thailand’s recovery has lagged others in the region due to a slow recovery in the tourism sector, which typically accounts for about 12% of gross domestic product.
“Our economic recovery is slow but stable,” Arkhom said.
Exports should increase 10% this year, boosted by a weak baht, and continue to support the economy next year, alongside tourism and government investment, he said.
The government reported on Saturday the jobless rate dropped to 1.3% in July, its lowest since the start of the pandemic, from 1.4% in June.
Thailand’s definition of unemployment is narrow, however, and analysts say the figures do not catch its significant unofficial economy.