With a back and forth over Covid-19 restrictions, as China opens its doors for its citizens to travel outbound again, the wave of the coveted Chinese tourist demographic has been nothing more than a trickle. The first arrivals in three years on a direct flight from China to Thailand landed in Bangkok on January 8, with 200 enthusiastic travellers.
After Covid restrictions were lifted, Chinese people who have been waiting for years for their government to allow travel are bursting to get out of the country and Thailand is one of the most popular destinations. But the earlier predictions of a quick influx of Chinese tourists have been muted.
In reality, many people need to modify their travel documents after three years without travel, with Beijing reporting long lines of people waiting to renew their passports. Tour companies need to work out logistics before they can book and horde tourists onto the ubiquitous Chinese tour groups.
And airlines need to apply and get approved for landing and take-off slots and ready aircraft to expand routes. On Sunday, some 245 international flights departed Beijing’s main international airport. Before the pandemic that number was closer to 2,500 flights per day transporting the sizable Chinese tourist demographic.
Still, the lifting of restrictions on Sunday has already helped the Chinese economy, which has been struggling with the lowest growth in nearly 50 years. The stock market saw a boom when it opened on Monday and the Chinese yuan has strengthened as a currency.
China also must grapple with a Covid outbreak wave that the World Health Organisation accused the government of downplaying, as hospitals are reportedly overwhelmed, as are crematoriums. Many countries are imposing stricter Covid regulations on tourists from China, despite the Chinese government threatening backlash against any country that discriminates.
Some countries – such as the US, the UK, Spain, and Japan – are requiring a negative Covid test from all tourists originating in China, according to the Bangkok Post.