The Association of Thai Travel Agents has welcomed the early return of Chinese tour groups, which it believes will help the country reach pre-Covid tourist arrival levels by next year.
Wichit Prakobkosol, an adviser to ATTA, explains that the demand from Chinese tourists is bouncing back more rapidly than expected, as many of Thailand’s “competitors” are not on the list of 20 nations that China is allowing its citizens to travel to. Currently excluded from the list are Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam, so most Chinese tour groups opt for Thailand.
However, Wichit says the lack of sufficient flights is still hindering the return of Chinese tourists, as the number of flights from China to Thailand is only at 10% of pre-Covid levels and operated mostly by Chinese carriers. The number of flights is expected to increase by 20% next month and rise to 40-50% of pre-Covid levels in the second quarter of 2023.
Meanwhile an unnamed source at a large tour agency in Thailand says Covid-19 has reset the Chinese tour agency business. Prior to the pandemic, he says tour agencies in China offered “zero-dollar” packages, where the Chinese agents gave little or nothing to their Thai counterparts.
These “zero-dollar” tour operators ran their businesses at a loss, but opened shops in Thailand and sent Chinese tourists to buy goods at the shops to recoup the losses. They would subsidise the travel and accommodation, all pre-paid in China, and then recoup the costs with commissions and expensive tours whilst their guests are in Thailand.
However, due to high operational costs during the pandemic, the “zero-dollar” packages are no longer sustainable.
The governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Yuthasak Supasorn, highlights the significant role Chinese tourists play in the country’s economic recovery. He says that from January 1 to February 2, 99,429 Chinese tourists visited Thailand, and the number is expected to reach 300,000 by the end of March. The TAT has revised its initial prediction of 5 million Chinese tourists this year to 7 or 8 million, with tourism expected to generate between 1.25 trillion to 2.38 trillion-baht revenue for the country.
In related news, Yol Phokasub, chairman of the Thai Retailers Association and CEO of Central Retail Corporation, suggests the government test a tax-free zone for foreign tourists in a sandbox format, which could be carried out in Phuket to encourage foreign tourists to spend more in the country.
SOURCE: Nation Thailand