With the number of Chinese tourists visiting Thailand falling 11.8% in August 2018, one of the country’s most important lucrative markets — cornering around 20% of the economy — is experiencing its rate of growth since February of last year.
The root of the current lack in popularity of Thailand as a destination for the Chinese can be traced back to the tragic sinking of a tourist boat, off the Phuket coast in July 2017 – where 47 Chinese nationals were killed — which lead to an unprecedented wave of 600,000 trip cancellations by Chinese tourists. And, according to the Thai Tourism and Sports Ministry, a potential loss of around THB 37 billion (USD 1.121 billion) in revenue for the industry.
This has been compounded by the US-China trade war which, along with adding to concern about travelling abroad, has caused the cost of travel to rise.
However, officials believe arrival figures are still on track to reach a target of 38 million visitors this year. Indeed, because of the long-standing bilateral relationship between the two countries, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is predicting an end of year surge which will see the “high season return of Chinese tourists” during November and December.
TAT has announced a series of promotions in anticipation of the high season return of Chinese tourists during the last two months of this year, along with ongoing activities and long-term strategies to boost Chinese tourists’ confidence in Thailand.
Yuthasak Supasorn, the TAT governor said: “The immediate strategy is to restore Chinese tourists’ confidence in Thailand, so TAT has sought co-operation with Thai tourism operators to ensure that their operations and tour programmes, as well as services, adhere to strict safety guidelines.”
“Strengthen bilateral tourism relations between China and Thailand”
Citing the organisation’s tourism campaigns as key, Supasorn believes the Chinese-Thai bilateral tourism relationship reflects the strong ties between the countries: “TAT’s ongoing efforts include our ‘Friendship Caravan’ series organised in cooperation with China’s Ministry of the Culture and Chinese Embassy in Thailand to promote cross-border tourism cooperation, encouraging more two-way overland travel. Most recently, the fourth annual friendship caravan in 2017 continued the tradition to strengthen bilateral tourism relations between China and Thailand.”
Collaborations between the two countries, include TAT’s MOU with Alitrip to boost quality tourism from China; TAT’s partnership with Alibaba’s Fliggy to improve Chinese tourists’ travel experience in Thailand; a Thailand/China MOU to develop quality tourism and a roadshow to China by Thailand’s Deputy PM to promote the country.
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year (CNY) celebrations are huge in Thailand, and 2018 marked the 14th anniversary of cooperation between TAT, the Chinese Ministry of Culture, and the Chinese Embassy in organising annual Lunar New Year festivities in Thailand.
The CNY official opening ceremony in Yaowarat features cultural exchange performances from China. Every year, China sends over 100 traditional Chinese dancers and musicians, martial artists, Chinese opera performers and acrobats from several cities in a cultural exchange. Once celebrated among Thailand’s Chinese communities, today, the Chinese New Year is one of the Kingdom’s most popular celebrations with many Thais joining in.
In addition to the opening ceremony at Bangkok’s Yaowarat, performances are also held in key cities around Thailand where CNY is celebrated in grand style. In return, TAT organises education tours of Thailand for the performers.