BANGKOK – Thailand’s Junta Governments attempt to stamp out cheap tour packages from China has stalled arrivals from that market during Golden Week, but the travel industry believes this will save them over the long haul.
“Since the government moved to crack down on ‘zero dollar tours’ nationwide, arrivals from China inevitably plunged not only in Pattaya but also all major destinations,” Sinchai Wattanasart-sathorn, president of the Pattaya Business and Tourism Association, said yesterday.
The number of Chinese visitors to Pattaya dropped by half during the Chinese national holiday that began on Saturday and ends this tomorrow Friday from the same season last year.
Suriya Sensuree, a speedboat operator in Pattaya, has witnessed a sharp drop in Chinese customers since authorities enforced strict controls on illegal or nominee operators and seized the assets of some big players in China’s markets.
However, tourism operators at the beach-resort city have discussed the problem and may soon launch some stimulus packages.
Varida Sae-ng, managing director of Pattaya Floating Market, is confident that the suppression of no-frills tours would help improve the entire tourism situation in the future and help the country gain more quality tourists.
In the North, Pornchai Chitnawasathien, president of the Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association, said about 25,000 Chinese would travel to the province during Golden Week, down about 5,000-10,000 from its earlier prediction.
That would generate less income.
Thai AirAsia predicts that tourist arrivals from China will slip by 10-15 per cent because of the measures to stop the exploitation of groups from that market, but the budget airline is keeping its target of 17 million passengers for this year.
The airline is also set to focus on the Indochinese market to substitute for the Chinese weakness.
Some media reported that 220,000 Chinese tourists would travel to Thailand during Golden Week, or 21 per cent short of the target of 280,000.
In that case, the total number of Chinese visitors to Thailand would decline from 10.1 million to 9.3 million and tourism income would fall by Bt2 billion (S$78.9 million).
Srisuda Wanapinyosak, deputy governor for international marketing Asia and South Pacific at the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said: the forecast number of Chinese increase from to last season “More than 4 million Chinese are expected to travel abroad during Golden Week and 220,000 will visit Thailand. They are expected to spend Bt7.8 billion in Thailand.”
Many charter flights will operate as usual and carry many Chinese to Thailand, meaning that the campaign against zero-dollar tours will not be reflected in China inbound travel from China, she said.
This year to date, 9 million Chinese have entered the Kingdom, up from 7.9 million in the same period last year.
By Suchat Sritama