The Chief Commercial Officer of Thai Airways has credited a temporary relaxing of visa rules with an increase in the number of Chinese passengers and bookings. Speaking to Bloomberg Television yesterday, Korakot Chatasingha says the carrier’s flights from China to Thailand are more than 90% full.
“We have seen significant growth in terms of Chinese traffic into Thailand.”
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Chinese were far and away the most significant contributors to tourism revenue in the kingdom, but a return to the 2019 numbers n has been slow to materialise. Already in the last quarter of the year, Chinese visitor numbers are still only 50% of those seen pre-pandemic.
This is being blamed partly on the downturn in the Chinese economy, coupled with stimulus measures introduced by the Chinese government to boost domestic tourism.
However, many have also pointed the finger at Thailand’s visa application process, which some say is overly complicated and takes too long. New PM Srettha Thavisin has gone some way to address this, by introducing a temporary visa waiver for visitors from China and Kazakhstan.
The waiver kicked in on September 25 and will run until February 29, 2024.
Long term, there are also plans for a second Phuket airport, albeit in neighbouring Phang Nga, along with improvements at existing airports. Last week, Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport opened the new SAT-1 satellite terminal.
Thai Airways, currently in the middle of a debt restructuring process, says it plans to increase flights to 5 Chinese cities, from 49 a week to 56, from December 1. Korakot adds that the carrier is still deciding whether or not to return to pre-Covid flight levels.
“We are trying to anticipate if the number is growing strongly, we believe we can go back to the levels in 2019.”