Why Chinese tourists snub Thailand: New favourites revealed

Photo courtesy of Benar News

After 26 years of catering to Chinese tourists, a tour guide finds himself amid a revolution as travellers from Taiwan, India, and beyond take centre stage.

Thailand, hopeful for a Chinese tourism resurgence post-pandemic, faces an unexpected plot twist as a surge of Taiwanese visitors, in particular, reshapes the narrative. Saichon Chounchou now handles a 20-person group of Taiwanese tourists.

“Now my clients are Taiwanese. They are regular clients and generate revenue for many local communities as opposed to many Chinese on a zero-dollar tour.”

Zero-dollar tourism, a longstanding bane in Thailand, involves Chinese tour companies steering visitors exclusively to Chinese-run establishments, depriving local businesses of potential earnings. In contrast, Saichon’s Taiwanese group opts for opulence, staying in a five-star hotel for five days at a whopping 100,000 baht per person.

Government data shows that the Taiwanese influx is no fluke, with approximately 585,000 Taiwanese visitors to Thailand in the first 10 months of this year. With a new visa-free policy for Taiwanese visitors, this number is expected to soar. However, Thailand’s overall tourism revival post-Covid is unfolding more gradually than anticipated.

With Bangkok aspiring to host 28 million international visitors this year, compared to the pre-pandemic high of 40 million in 2019, the projections seem optimistic. Saichon’s observations echo the sentiment.

“Chinese tourists are concerned about safety in Thailand, and the Thai government just can’t crack the code of why Chinese have not come as much as before.”

Safety concerns

The shift in tourism dynamics isn’t merely a case of preference but is entangled with safety concerns, economic factors, and even negative narratives circulating on Chinese social media platforms. Reports of safety concerns and unmet expectations have prompted Thai officials to engage in damage control.

While Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s push for visa-free entry for Chinese nationals was a bold move, it hasn’t yielded the anticipated results. Projections of four to four and a half million Chinese arrivals this year have been revised to a more modest three and a half million by year-end, reported Benar News.

As Thailand grapples with this tourism rollercoaster, the spotlight is turning towards other potential markets. India, with its burgeoning tourism numbers, has become a beacon of hope, said tour guide Patcharee.

“If the free visas didn’t work for the Chinese, it worked for the Indians.”

Despite the uncertainties, industry experts like Bill Barnett, managing director of C9 Hotelworks, affirm Thailand’s enduring appeal.

“Absolutely, this is the start of a new cycle, and Thailand remains a favoured global destination.”

Thailand NewsTourism News

Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

Related Articles