Affected tour operators see priority in Thai-Chinese relations
Though a drastic drop in Chinese tourists to Thailand as a result of the coronavirus outbreak means a fall in tourism revenue, long-term relationship between Thailand and China is more important, said the vice president of the Thai-Chinese Tourism Alliance Association (TCTA).
“We have to admit that there has been a huge impact on Thailand’s tourism sector after the Chinese government imposed the outbound travel ban on citizens last week to contain the coronavirus outbreak,” said Chanapan Kaewklachaiyawuth, vice President of the TCTA.
But Chanapan cautioned against too much focus on the economic side of the situation.
“If we focus too much on the effect of the outbreak on tourism, it would mean we are too preoccupied with money while a lot of people are suffering. We should be more concerned about the relationship between Thailand and China,” he said.
And to demonstrate its sympathy with the situation in Wuhan, he said TCTA has sent letters to many agencies offering support and encouragement for the Chinese people’s fight against the novel coronavirus.
“In 1997, Thailand faced the ‘Tom Yum Kung’ financial crisis and China helped us by not devaluating the Yuan currency. Thailand and China have helped each other for a long time and the coronavirus crisis is a matter of life and death. We should help them to win the battle against the epidemic,” he said.
Outbound tourism agencies have also been impacted by the spread of coronavirus infections as all flight tickets to China and hotel reservations there have had to be cancelled. The owner of an outbound travel agency, told Thai PBS World: “Luckily we can get a full refund on the flight tickets, but this policy only covers February. We don’t know if they will maintain this policy if the situation doesn’t improve.”
Even though the Chinese government has banned its citizens from taking overseas tours, there are still some Chinese travelers in Thailand. Most of them arrived in Thailand before the restrictions on travel were announced by the Chinese government, and some didn’t come directly from China.
A guide from a Chinese tourist agency told Thai PBS World that the number of Chinese tourists in Thailand has decreased by 80%.
“We have to work with independent Chinese travelers, so, anti-bacterial hand gel and hygienic masks are very important for us. The company supports us with all of the items necessary to protect us from being infected by coronavirus,” he said.