By Deutsche Presse Agentur
The number of Chinese nationals visiting Thailand surged during the first half of the year, exceeding Malaysians for the first time, tourism officials said Wednesday.
Between January and June, some 1,124,234 Chinese tourists visited the kingdom, up 28.9 per cent from the same period last year, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said.
Altogether some 10.5 million tourists visited during the first half of 2012, up 7.6 per cent year-on-year.
"The most important contributor to this growth was arrivals from China which, for the first time, crossed the 1 million arrivals mark in the six-moth period," TAT said.
Tourists from neighbouring Malaysia have traditionally been Thailand's leading market. But Malaysian arrivals were down 8.5 per cent in the first six months of the year at 1,115,721.
In the same period, the number of Russian tourists reached 634,312, up 12.2 per cent, British tourists numbered 433,989, up 1.5 per cent, and Germans 357,472, up 9.7 per cent.
Experts had expressed concern that tourism, a significant source of foreign revenue, could be affected by political instability in 2010 and floods in 2011.