23 May 2024

Thailand’s tourism industry has welcomed the news that the Chinese government is allowing the group tour market to resume after a hiatus of almost three years.  The Chinese tourists will be able to visit 20 countries including Thailand, a blessing for the hospitality industry which stands to benefit from the return of a significant increase in these international tourists and the revenue they would bring.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) expects at least 5 million Chinese tourists to visit Thailand this year. Approximately 11 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand in 2019 before the Covid-19 outbreak, and they generated 531 million Baht in tourism income. TAT expects the revenue from Chinese tourists this year to exceed that of the pre-Covid era.

In a reassuring message to the public, the Thai government says it believes that Thailand would be able to contain the spread of Covid-19 despite the influx of tourists from China, which is seeing a massive increase in cases following the relaxation of the zero-Covid policy. The TAT’s offices in five Chinese cities, namely Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Kunming, have put in place a promotional programme called “China is Back” starting with a tourism campaign dubbed “Two Lands, One Heart”.

Hotels target more than Chinese guests

Proudputh Liptapanlop, executive director of Proud Real Estate Plc, said that the overall tourism sector will make a full recovery once the Chinese tourists return in full. As a hotel owner, her company expected Chinese groups to start arriving in the fourth quarter of 2022, but that didn’t happen. It is now anticipated that the numbers will soar in the second half of this year.

Proudputh was speaking at the recent “Thailand Tourism Forum 2023: Innovation in Hospitality” where she joined others from leading companies in the hospitality sector.

The slower-than-expected return of Chinese tourists prompted Proudputh’s company to look for new markets like Russia and the Middle East to make up the numbers.

“Although the Chinese are returning, it is vital that we maintain diversity. We must not neglect our new markets especially the Russians which have exceeded our target,” she added.

A more diverse mix of guests is considered healthy for the hospitality business. Ho Ren Yung, Senior Vice President – Brand and Commercial, Banyan Tree Group, shared a similar view at the forum.

“Before the pandemic, one-third of the Banyan Tree’s guests were Chinese. We are anticipating rising bookings in February as the Chinese tourists return. But we will certainly retain our guest diversity,” said Yung.

Wallapa Traisorat, CEO and President, Asset World Corporation (AWC), said she was excited to welcome back the Chinese tourists. The AWC hotels have recently welcomed the Chinese FITs (Free Independent Travellers) which is an interesting group. “About 10% of our guests are from China and after we started seeing the arrival of FIT guests from China this year, that proportion has remained at 10% though the spending per room has already surpassed that recorded in 2019.

“It’s a good signal that quality customers are coming to Thailand,” she said.

Wallapa said that she expected the Chinese group tours to return in March.

By Veena Thoopkrajae