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Airports of Thailand sees revenue up 10% on more Chinese visitors

Airports of Thailand PCL (AOT), the country's largest airports operator, said on Wednesday it expected revenue to grow at least 10% in the next fiscal year from October, helped by higher tourist numbers. AOT, which operates six main airports and majority owned by the state, expects passenger numbers to rise 5% to 135 million in the 2018 fiscal year, driven by Chinese tourists, President Nitinai Sirismatthakarn said at a news briefing. The number of Chinese tourists, Thailand's biggest foreign group, has rebounded from a slump late last year that followed a crackdown on cheap Chinese tour packages, or so-called "zero-dollar" tours. "International passengers are recovering after the Chinese zero dollar tour issues were resolved," Nitinai said. Such Chinese packages are tarnishing the country's image and the government has moved to shut them down. The government expects about 35 million foreign tourists in 2017 after last year's record 32.6 million, with nearly 9 million Chinese travellers. Tourism accounts for 12% of Southeast Asia's second-largest economy. For the 2017 fiscal year to September, AOT predicts revenue growth of about 10% and around 129 million passengers, Nitinai said. The company will pay up to 1.4 billion baht (US$42.35 million) as five-year backdated rent to the Treasury Department this month, it said in a statement. From 2018-2022, AOT will make payments based on a revenue sharing and a return on assets basis, with annual payment estimated at about 900 million baht. The payment rate will be increased by 9% every three years, it said.