BANGKOK, Thailand—Thailand’s economy grew 2.2 percent in the first quarter as exports and tourism rebounded after the relaxation of pandemic restrictions, the country’s main economic agency said Tuesday.
During the pandemic, Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy suffered its worst economic performance since the 1997 Asian financial crisis, with visitor numbers crashing from roughly 40 million annually.
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 getting better due to the relaxation of entry requirements for tourists,” National Economic and Social Development Council secretary general Danucha Pichayanan said.
The agency said the economy grew by 2.2 percent in January to March compared with the same period last year, and by 1.1 percent compared with the previous quarter.
The figures are a stark turnaround from the depths of the pandemic, which saw the economy contract by 6.1 percent in 2020.
The agency said global market volatility from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and a slowdown in China’s economy thanks to virus lockdowns across various cities, were affecting the pace of the kingdom’s economic recovery.
Ukraine is a key exporter of fertilizer and the war has reduced supply in Thailand.
The Thai government has sought to ease the shortage by sourcing fertilizer from Saudi Arabia.
The agency also raised its inflation forecasts this year to between 4.2-5.2 percent, up from the earlier range of 1.5-2.5 percent.
Danucha attributed the inflation increase to rising energy prices.
The country has a weekly average of more than 6,500 daily new coronavirus infections, although testing is limited.