Thailand’s tourism stakeholders are hoping to attract more tourists from China with the new visa-free scheme, starting on September 23. But the new visa-free arrival is facing several obstacles. Kazakh visitors are also included in the new visa-waiver scheme announced this week by the Cabinet.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand reported that there will be 50% fewer seats available on Chinese flights to Thailand in the final quarter of the year compared to the same period in 2019. This drop in seat capacity is likely to make it tough for Thailand to reach its goal of welcoming 700,000 Chinese tourists each month through the visa-free policy.
Added to this hiccup is the current economic woes in China and bad media coming out of Thailand relating to Chinese visitor safety.
Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, pointed out that Thailand currently receives around 350,000 Chinese tourists per month, so doubling that number by the end of the year will be a challenging task.
Another major issue is that many Chinese citizens are still facing difficulties obtaining passports, which is something the Thai government can’t control without help from Beijing.
Although Thailand has made some progress with 2.28 million arrivals from January to September, achieving the year-end goal of 5 million tourists out of China seems unlikely. The visa waiver program for Chinese nationals is set to begin on September 23 and run until February 29 next year, taking in the Chinese New Year holiday as well.
To offset these challenges, many tourism operators, especially in Phuket, are pinning their hopes on attracting Kazakh tourists, who will also benefit from the visa-free program. The TAT expects Thailand to welcome a record number of 180,000-200,000 Kazakh tourists this year.
Kazakh visitors have featured in the Top 5 arrival figures for nationalities throughout this year, in Phuket.
Phuket Airport Immigration has already seen a 580% increase in visitors from Kazakhstan during the first half of this year, reaching 76,421. Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, TAT deputy governor for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas, believes Kazakh tourists have great potential.
“They are spending an average of 4,365 baht per person per day and stay for around 14 days. Moreover, they are becoming a rapidly expanding market for Thailand, as they visit not only during the winter but also in the summer months.”
Mr. Siripakorn predicts that the visa-free scheme will encourage Kazakh tourists to stay longer, especially during the high airfare winter season. To accommodate this influx, scheduled flights between Thailand and Kazakhstan will increase to 14 per week starting in October, with an additional 10 chartered flights per week to Phuket from first- and second-tier cities in Kazakhstan.