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Phuket and Chiang Mai welcome return of Chinese tourists for Lunar New Year

Pre-Covid tourism in Chiang Mai. Flickr/Karl Grenet

Direct flights from China have landed in Phuket and Chiang Mai today, for the first time in nearly three years. The two flights were carrying the first 377 Chinese tourists.

In Phuket, 182 Chinese tourists arrived on a direct Spring Airlines flight from Shanghai.

Chiang Mai Airport has welcomed a flight carrying 195 Chinese tourists who plan to spend the Lunar New Year holiday in Thailand. Flight HO1325, operated by Juneyao Airlines, touched down at 3.30pm yesterday in a return of Chinese flights to the northern hub.

Nation Thailand reports that the flight was welcomed by representatives from the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Chiang Mai office, along with the Tourism Council and various provincial tourism operators.

Pre-pandemic, China was the kingdom’s largest overseas tourism market, with around 11 million Chinese visitors coming to Thailand in 2019. This year, officials predict the number is likely to be less than half that.

Meanwhile, Wijit Kaewsaithiam, director of Chiang Mai Airport, says there are currently 5 airlines operating flights between China and Chiang Mai: Juneyao Airlines, Spring Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Sichuan Airlines, and Air China.

The airport also offers direct connections to another 11 international destinations, with flights to Inchon, Singapore, Luang Prabang, Da Nang, Hanoi, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Busan, Ho Chi Minh City and Yangon.

The TAT’s Chiang Mai office says that during the first quarter of this year, Chinese tourists will be travelling independently in Thailand as tour package operators in China are not yet selling packages for Thailand. However, TAT Chiang Mai director Suladda Sarutilavan expects this to change during the second quarter of 2023.

TAT Chiang Mai is forecasting around 600,000 Chinese visitors to the northern province this year, a third of 2019’s total. A number of events and festivals have been planned, with the Chinese New Year holiday kicking things off on Sunday. This will be followed by the Chiang Mai Flower Festival in February, Thai New Year, or Songkran, in April, and Loy Krathong in November.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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