Vol. 5 Num 923 Sun. December 31, 2006  

Tourist arrivals in Thailand up 18pc in 2006

Tourists shrugged off Thailand's political woes in 2006 and poured into the country in record numbers, sending arrivals up 18.5 percent to 13.65 million, the tourism authority said Saturday.

Despite a year marked by political protests and a coup in September, the Tourism Authority of Thailand said the 13-billion-dollar industry has rebounded from the devastating effects of the tsunami that hit two years ago.

The bloodless coup that ousted twice-elected premier Thaksin Shinawatra caused a brief interruption in the sector's recovery, said TAT spokesman Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya.

"Absolutely, there were some cancellations after the coup, but the increased arrivals prove that those who cancelled have already returned to Thailand," he told AFP.

"Tourism in the tsunami-affected area has totally recovered to the pre-tsunami period," Chattan added.

In Thailand, some 5,400 people were killed by the Indian Ocean tsunami and roughly half of the victims were foreign holidaymakers. The giant waves killed about 220,000 people in 11 countries.