Songkran festival kicks off in Thailand

Thailand has kicked off its traditional new year festival. The government is going all out for this year's celebrations in the hope of attracting international visitors.

Monday marked the start of this year's Songkran festival, which will last 21 days instead of the usual three. It will feature parades and celebrations across the country showcasing Thai culture and traditions.

Songkran is known for its water purification rituals, in which people soak each other with water cannons. The events have become popular with foreign tourists.

This year's festival is the first since Songkran was added to UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list in December.

Officials expect the designation to provide a big boost to tourism, with a government projection estimating 1.4 billion dollars in revenue.

The tourism minister says the extended festival will help bring the number of foreign visitors back to its pre-pandemic level.

She added the country hopes to record three million foreign arrivals for the month and that the government will look to sustain this number by organizing activities that attract tourists to Thailand.

The Songkran holiday itself begins on the 13th, but the government is allowing schools and businesses to take more days off for this year's expanded festivities.