Thailand’s economy grew 2.2% in the first quarter as exports and tourism rebounded after the easing of pandemic-related restrictions, the country’s main economic agency said on Tuesday.
During the pandemic, Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy recorded its worst economic performance since the 1997 Asian financial crisis, with visitor numbers dropping by around 40 million a year.
But this month the tourism-dependent kingdom dropped almost all restrictions for fully vaccinated visitors, including the need for Covid-19 tests to travel.
“The export sector is good…the tourism industry is improving thanks to the relaxation of entry requirements for tourists,” said National Council for Economic and Social Development Secretary General Danucha Pichayanan.
The agency said the economy grew 2.2% from January to March compared to the same period last year, and 1.1% compared to the previous quarter.
The figures are a sharp turnaround from the depths of the pandemic, which saw the economy shrink by 6.1% in 2020.
The agency said global market volatility due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a slowdown in China’s economy thanks to virus lockdowns in various cities were affecting the pace of the kingdom’s economic recovery.
Ukraine is a major fertilizer exporter and the war has reduced supply in Thailand.
The Thai government has sought to alleviate the shortage by sourcing fertilizer from Saudi Arabia.
The agency also raised its inflation forecast this year to 4.2-5.2%, up from the previous range of 1.5-2.5%.
Danucha attributed the rise in inflation to rising energy prices.
The country has a weekly average of more than 6,500 daily new coronavirus infections, although testing is limited.