China gives green light to Chinese tour groups

PHOTO: China gave the green light for Chinese tourists tour groups to recommence. (via Felix Wong)

China has lifted its restriction on group tours travelling to Thailand and 19 other countries. The reopening of tour groups officially started yesterday, marking a significant step towards normalising international travel for Chinese tourists.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism in China made the announcement yesterday. This move will officially allow tour agencies and online travel companies to begin booking large group tours. Before the Covid-19 pandemic large Chinese tour groups were ubiquitous in Thailand and many other countries, seen travelling by buses and led by flag bearers.

Before the pandemic, China has for years been the top country in terms of the sheer number of tourists travelling to Thailand. The country accounted for around 30% of the overall tourists visiting the kingdom. The travel industry in Thailand is expected to welcome this news with open arms, as it would bring a much-needed boost to their economy.

However, some residents have already expressed concerns about the return of the throngs of tourists, complaining about the potential traffic problems that may arise due to the influx of people.

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China had already dropped individual international travel restrictions earlier this month, but had not yet given the green light to tour operators, a preferred travel method earlier this month, but had not yet given the green light to tour operators for millions of Chinese tourists.

Arrivals are forecast to start ramping up in the second quarter of 2023 with some predictions estimating 7-8 million Chinese tourists for the whole year, about two-thirds of the 11.5 million who visited Thailand in 2019 pre-pandemic. This could help boost the total number of foreign arrivals to 26-27 million, a recent survey by the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC) found.

The Ministry of Tourism also instructed local authorities in China to closely monitor travel businesses and ensure that their tours meet standards. They called on authorities to keep an eye out for tours being promoted at “unreasonably low prices.”

In addition to Thailand, the approved countries for the tour group and “flight+hotel” services from Chinese travel companies are:

  • Argentina
  • Cambodia
  • Cuba
  • Egypt
  • Fiji
  • Hungary
  • Indonesia
  • Kenya
  • Laos
  • Malaysia
  • the Maldives
  • New Zealand
  • the Philippines
  • Russia
  • Singapore
  • South Africa
  • Sri Lanka
  • Switzerland
  • the United Arab Emirates

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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