US ban could boost Middle East tourism to Thailand, official says

BANGKOK - Thailand might get more tourists from the Middle East as a result of US President Donald Trump's entry ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries, the head of the tourism authority said on Monday.
"The Middle East is a big market for us, especially in the medical tourism sector. They may choose to visit Thailand more and this may also boost our sector," Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Yuthasak Supasorn told Reuters.
He said Thailand would need to assess the situation further.
Thailand's military government did not respond to a request for official comment on the ban.
Trump has presented his ban as a way to protect the United States from Islamist militants, but it has been condemned by a growing list of foreign leaders and drawn protests by tens of thousands in American cities.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand is the government agency responsible for promoting tourism to Thailand.
Only just over 2 percent of Thailand's tourists came from the Middle East in 2016, but it expects an 8 percent rise in the first quarter of 2017 compared with the year before.
Medical tourism is a growing market for Thailand. The largest operator is Bangkok Dusit Medical Services Pcl. Another is Bumrungrad Pcl..
Muslims represent the second biggest religious group in Thailand behind Buddhists, but make up only about 5 percent of the population.
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