BANGKOK: Thailand will lose more than half a million Chinese tourists after a deadly boating accident killed nearly 50 people last month, a potential blow to the country's vital tourism sector.
The Phoenix was carrying 105 people, mostly Chinese, when it sank on the way back from a popular snorkeling spot on July 5 off the southern resort island of Phuket. It was among three vessels which ignored a bad weather warning against island day trips. Divers and the navy spent more than a week retrieving bodies, some from inside the boat, with the final death toll at 47 Chinese nationals. The boat's captain, an engineer and the owner of the company that operates the vessel have been arrested and are being held while authorities conduct an investigation, Phuket police told AFP.
Dozens of Chinese tourists missing in boat capsize off Thailand's Phuket
Tourists from China made up almost a quarter of Thailand's 35 million visitors last year, official statistics show. In a statement provided to AFP, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports revised down its forecasted number of Chinese arrivals for July-December by nearly 670,000, to 5.1 million.
"The factor that caused Chinese tourist numbers to plunge is dissatisfaction over the boat accident which mainly directly affected tour groups," the statement said, adding that August will see a 60 percent decrease in arrivals.
28 dead, many more bodies seen inside sunken Thai tourist boat
But Thailand is confident that Chinese arrivals will continue rise year on year, the ministry said, adding it expects to welcome more than 11 million Chinese tourists this year.
The disaster was one of the worst boating accidents in recent history in Thailand but received little attention as the rescue of 12 children and their football coach from a cave in northern Thailand occurring around the same time monopolized news coverage.