Chinese tourism to Thailand lags despite lifted travel restrictions

Photo: Apichart Jinakul/Bangkok Post.

The number of Chinese tourists visiting Thailand continues to fall behind predictions, despite China lifting travel restrictions over eight months ago. By September 10, a total of 2.28 million Chinese arrivals had been recorded for the year, with estimates for the end of the year standing between 4 and 4.4 million. This falls short of the initial target of 5 million set earlier in the year, signifying a decline in Chinese tourism.

The decline in Chinese tourism to Thailand, which fell by 99% in 2021 from roughly 10 million in 2019 due to China’s borders being sealed, is believed to be due to several factors. Safety concerns, the sluggish Chinese economy, and domestic tourism promotions from the Chinese government have all played a part.

Notably, safety concerns have been highlighted as a key issue by both tour operators and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), with the Thai Cabinet recently approving a visa exemption for Chinese nationals for five months in an attempt to boost tourism numbers. However, tourism analysts still predict a hesitant Chinese tourism market.

In terms of the history of Chinese tourism in Thailand, a significant boom in Chinese visitors was seen following the release of the Chinese comedy film Lost in Thailand in 2012. The film saw Chinese arrivals almost tripled from 1.7 million in 2011 to 4.6 million in 2013, with many visitors choosing Thailand as their first overseas destination.

However, in recent times, negative portrayals of Southeast Asia in Chinese films, such as the thriller ‘No More Bets’, and safety concerns circulated on social media have led to a decrease in Chinese tourism to Thailand. The Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) has called for an official statement from the government to assure tourists about safety, alongside the visa exemption.

Despite these challenges, the TAT continues to promote Thailand to the Chinese using three themes: Convenience & safety, worthwhile, and experience. The TAT is also targeting quality tourists who spend on average 51,415 baht per person per trip. With the visa exemption, revenue from the Chinese tourism market is estimated at 258 billion baht this year from an estimated 4 to 4.4 million tourists, reported Bangkok Post.

As part of the efforts to improve safety and combat illegal businesses, Thailand plans to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Cultural Ministry of China and the Tourism Authority in China.

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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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