Thailand’s Economic Growth Beats Forecasts as Tourism Rebounds

Thailand’s economy grew more than expected in the first quarter of 2023, beating analyst estimates, thanks to continued recovery in the tourism sector and to higher agricultural production.  

Thailand’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 2.7 percent in the first quarter compared to the same period of 2022, up from 1.4 percent annual growth in the fourth quarter of 2022, the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC) said on 15 May.

The faster economic growth was attributed to the expansion of the tourism industry, higher agricultural production, increased private consumption expenditure, and exports of services, the official statistics body of ASEAN’s second-largest economy said.

Thailand’s economic growth in the first quarter beat an estimate of economists in a Reuters poll, who had expected Thai GDP to grow by 2.3 percent year-over-year.

The return of Chinese tourists after China’s reopening boosted Thailand’s tourism sector, which typically accounts for around 11-12 percent of the country’s GDP.

In the first quarter, accommodation and food service activities soared by 34.3 percent, accelerating from a jump of 30.6 percent in Q4/2022, thanks to a growing number of foreign tourist arrivals, the NESDC said.

Agricultural production grew by 7.2 percent, accelerating from a 3.4-percent increase in Q4/2022, driven by higher yields of sugarcane, oil palm, paddy, fruit, swine, and poultry.

Thailand’s economy is projected to expand by 2.7–3.7 percent for the whole of 2023, the NESDC said, reiterating an earlier economic growth forecast.

Thailand’s priorities for this year should be boosting exports, stimulating private investment, supporting the recovery in the tourism sector, and maintaining the economic and political conditions after the general election, the NESDC noted.