Expensive flights to Thailand too hot for Chinese mainland mainstream

Flights still hovering at 1.5 times pre-pandemic prices

Expensive flights to Thailand from bigger cities in China are delaying Thailand’s tourism recovery. Most tariffs are still one and a half times more than pre-pandemic prices, while for smaller cities, fares are more than double previous levels

According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn, while most tickets are cheaper than last year, prices for March and April are still higher than before the pandemic in every Chinese city.

Prices of flights from major cities in the mainland are 1.5 times higher, with prices from Shanghai as high as 24,500 baht (US$690). Ticket prices to and from smaller cities – in China a city of 4.2 million like Xiamen is considered “smaller” – are still around double the previous rates, and direct flights are still hard to come by from most transit hubs.

With passenger flow of passengers still weak in the first two months, the number of seats from eastern China, such as Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Hebei, amounted to 17,000 per week, with more than 10 airlines operating flights to Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai. Of that number, 10,000 came from Shanghai.

The average spend per Chinese traveller increased as the more expensive travel costs prompted them to consider longer stays. Tourists are showing a clear trend to travel with a small group of family members or friends and seek new experiences, rather than use tour groups.

According to TAT‘s estimates, the average spend per Chinese tourist per trip is as little as 60,000 (US$1,700) which is still more than in 2019, when mainland tourists spent an average of around 50,000 baht.

Yuthasak claims that it is difficult for tour operators to offer low-cost tours because of the operating costs.

As Chinese tourists’ preferences have shifted from mass tours to individual trips or tailor-made tours, low-cost tours are proving unpopular, he said. Post-pandemic, individual trips by Chinese travellers dominate the market, with mass tour groups, becoming a thing of the past dominated by low-spending small-town residents.

The TAT held roadshows last week in Chengdu, Guangzhou, and Shanghai. The agency expects to generate at least 900 million baht from business matching between 61 tourism operators from Thailand and 302 travel agents in China.

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Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.

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