Phuket’s golden opportunity: Chinese tourists set to make waves this weekend

Picture courtesy of Phuketindex.

The renowned resort island of Phuket is preparing for an influx of Chinese tourists as China gears up for Golden Week starting this weekend and the continuation of the visa-free scheme for Chinese nationals. The surge in tourists is expected to start towards the end of the week.

The anticipation also extends to the forthcoming Chinese New Year, which will mark the Year of the Dragon in February.

Phuket Tourism Association’s (PTA) president, Thaneth Tantipiriyakij, reported that the current tourism level, including both domestic and international visitors, is approximately 68% of what it was pre-pandemic. He noted that in 2019, Phuket welcomed about 13 million tourists, which included 3.1 million Chinese visitors. In comparison, approximately 900,000 Chinese tourists have visited this year, he added.

However, the visa-free scheme, introduced on Monday for Chinese and Kazakh nationals, is projected to increase the number of Chinese tourists to 1.7 million this year. This scheme is set to run until February 29.

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Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, chief adviser to the PTA, predicted that the volume of Chinese tourists in Phuket would return to pre-pandemic levels within the next two years. He also highlighted concerns raised by Chinese tour agencies, citing delays in the processing or renewal of their citizens’ passports, which could potentially hamper the short-term influx of tourists, reported Bangkok Post.

Furthermore, Bhummikitti mentioned China’s current economic slowdown, which may discourage many from travelling abroad.

Meanwhile, Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, deputy governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), expressed confidence that the visa-free scheme will aid Thailand in achieving its target of 5 million Chinese visitors this year. He confirmed that Thailand has already welcomed around 2.4 million Chinese tourists this week.

He also pointed out that Kazakhstani tourists are eligible for the 30-day visa exemption. Describing them as a high-end market, Cheawsamoot noted that Kazakhstani nationals typically visit Thailand in family groups or as couples, averaging about 20 days per trip.

In a further development, Thailand’s ambassador to Kazakhstan, Lieutenant Chatchawan Sakornsin, remarked that the visa exemption scheme has already had a positive impact on Kazakhstani tourists. He expects the number of Kazakhstani visitors to Thailand to leap from 60,000 to 150,000 annually.

Phuket, with its cultural offerings such as Muay Thai bouts and world-class beaches, is a favoured destination for Kazakhstani tourists, particularly during the winter.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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