Thailand’s economy enjoyed healthy expansion in the third quarter, officials said Monday, with the return of international tourists helping to offset persistently high inflation. Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy was battered by the pandemic, but the kingdom’s reopening earlier this year saw the service sector record an 87 percent year-on-year increase, official data showed. Thailand’s National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC) recorded a 4.5 percent year-on-year rise in gross domestic product in July-September, projecting this year’s overall growth at 3.2 percent while forecasting 3.0/4.0 percent for 2023. “The service sector continues to grow due to tourism re-opening earlier in the year,” said Danucha Pichayanan, NESDC secretary-general, adding private consumption increased nine percent. Thailand expects to generate around 570 billion baht ($15.8 billion) in tourism revenue this year, officials said, after welcoming some 10.2 million visitors since reopening — still down from the roughly 40 million pre-pandemic. But Danucha said the signs of recovery were there, with the kingdom pinning hopes on China’s potential relaxation of its strict Covid travel rules. “We believe that China is likely to relax travelling restrictions in the second half of next year,” he said. Chinese visitors had made up a huge part of the kingdom’s tourism economy and accounted for some 28 percent of all arrivals, according to Bloomberg.