Chinese tourists are back in Thailand for the first time in 3 years, following Beijing’s sudden lifting of travel restrictions last month. Yoyo Chen, a 32 year old business owner from central China has described being back in the kingdom as “coming home”, according to a Reuters report.
“I’m here to eat seafood. Previously, when I was here, I ate mango sticky rice, which was delicious. Back in China I kept thinking about the mango sticky rice here. I’m looking forward to the food, as well as visiting the beaches.”
For Chen, the visa application was straightforward and the Thai people she’s encountered have all been welcoming.
“Getting visas is very convenient now. The tourism industry is more developed here, there are lots of fun activities and cuisine, and the Thai people are very hospitable.”
Tourism operators have welcomed the return of the Chinese, albeit with some concern about a potential surge in Covid infections. Woranuch Maungtong from Phuket’s Tip-Top Destination, which offers boat trips to neighbouring islands, says Phuket has been waiting a long time to welcome back their Chinese guests.
“We’re glad that China finally allows their people to travel. At the moment, we’ve received some bookings through March.”
Thanks to the current Chinese New Year holiday, many top tourism destinations in Asia have been looking forward to the return of the Chinese. According to the Reuters report, Chinese tourists spent US$255 billion a year globally prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. China is the largest foreign tourism source market for Thailand and many other countries.
Over in Krabi, 28 year old Kiki Hu, a business owner from China is enjoying being back in the kingdom.
“Because of the pandemic, we hadn’t been out of China for 3 years. Now that we can leave and come here for holiday. I feel so happy and emotional.”
According to the report, the Thai government expects at least 5 million Chinese tourists this year, with 300,000 arriving during the first quarter.