Thailand tourism shifts focus to Kazakhstan amid slow Chinese tourism recovery

Photo by Norbert Braun on Unsplash

Chinese tourists aren’t expected to immediately surge to 700,000 arrivals per month, despite a prospective Thailand tourism visafree scheme, due to safety concerns and lower flight frequencies, currently at half of their pre-pandemic 2019 levels.

Phuket’s tourism operators are instead setting their sights on Kazakhstan, to be granted visa-free entries from September 25 to February 29, 2024. Travel agents see this market as having high potential. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) stated that the seat capacity for Chinese flights for the final quarter is around 400,000 seats, compared to double that in the same period in 2019.

The Association of Thai Travel Agents’ president, Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, highlighted the challenges of achieving the government’s target of five million yearly Chinese arrivals, a number which currently stands at 350,000 per month. Between January 1 and September 10, there were 2.28 million arrivals from China.

Sisdivachr expressed that a quick decision to implement a visa-free scheme would help the Thailand tourism market. However, due to Thailand’s safety reputation among Chinese netizens and insufficient flights, he expects this policy to only boost the market by 50%.

Prior to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s upcoming visit to China, it is suggested that the government should use this opportunity to discuss tourism cooperation and request Beijing’s help in controlling fake news about Thailand tourism on Chinese social media.

There are also concerns about the potential difficulties many Chinese citizens face when applying for passports, another hurdle the Thai government cannot overcome without assistance from Beijing.

A TAT executive, requesting anonymity, stated that a visa-free policy will have a limited impact if the number of airline seats does not rise from the current 400,000 in the last quarter. The TAT is collaborating with airlines to increase flights to China and push the load factor to 80-85% in the fourth quarter, up from the current 40%.

On the other hand, Kazakh tourists are projected to reach a record high of 180,000-200,000 this year. Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, TAT’s deputy governor for Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas, identified Kazakhstan as the fastest-growing market for Thailand.

Data from Phuket Airport Immigration revealed that visitors from Kazakhstan increased by 580% to 76,421 during the first half of this year. Kazakh tourists can only apply for a 30-day tourist visa, unlike Chinese travellers.

As of Sunday, September 10, the number of Kazakh arrivals to Thailand this year was 108,636, up from 56,000 in 2019. This market has high potential, with tourists spending an average of 4,365 baht per person per day and an average stay length of 14 days.

Cheawsamoot expects the visa-free scheme to encourage Kazakh tourists to extend their stays, particularly during the upcoming winter when airfares remain high.

From October, scheduled flights between Thailand and Kazakhstan will increase to 14 per week, divided equally between Bangkok and Phuket. Phuket is also anticipated to have 10 more chartered flights weekly from Kazakhstan’s first- and second-tier cities this winter.

However, limited slots at Phuket International Airport could pose a challenge, leading TAT to convince some airlines to utilise Krabi Airport instead.

In related news, issues in the Chinese economy dampen the number of Chinese tourists that come to Thailand. Click HERE to find out why.

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Alex Morgan

Alex is a 42-year-old former corporate executive and business consultant with a degree in business administration. Boasting over 15 years of experience working in various industries, including technology, finance, and marketing, Alex has acquired in-depth knowledge about business strategies, management principles, and market trends. In recent years, Alex has transitioned into writing business articles and providing expert commentary on business-related issues. Fluent in English and proficient in data analysis, Alex strives to deliver well-researched and insightful content to readers, combining practical experience with a keen analytical eye to offer valuable perspectives on the ever-evolving business landscape.

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