The number of Chinese tourists is expected to increase greatly this year thanks in part to the success of the Chinese film Lost in Thailand, which has helped to promote Thailand's image.
More young Chinese than ever before are travelling to Thailand. From left, William Jen, Alice Cheng, Xian Wang and Xian Mi take in the sights in Bangkok. YOTSAWADEE JARUNGIRAKIAT
These arrivals are expected to spend several billion baht nationwide.
As China, the world's most populous country, has developed into an economic superpower, its middle class has more money to spend on travel.
China had the most visitors to Thailand last year at 2.5 million, up by 47.1% from 1.7 million in 2011.
Chinese visitors are expected to grow by at least 28% to 3.2 million in 2013 to help compensate for the drop in European travellers.
Chinese tourists will undoubtedly play a large part if the government is to achieve its goal of 2 trillion baht in tourism revenue by 2015. China's economy remains strong, and for the moment there are no negative political factors in Thailand.
Thai TV series and films remain very popular in China, and the expansion of air connections between the countries will only foster more travel this year.
Lost in Thailand (2012), a low-budget comedy, has set a record by grossing US$184 million as of this past Sunday after debuting on Dec 12.
The film, which is set in Thailand, tells the story of two businessmen searching for their boss in the North. Hilarity ensues.
Kitcha Lawkobkit, the marketing manager at Ananda Travel (Thailand) Co, said the Chinese tourist market has several niches including families, middle-aged groups, students, traders, businessmen and golfers.
Most of the Chinese travellers they see in Thailand are workers aged 21-50 who want to relax and experience something new.
The cheap tour prices in Thailand make the country very popular, said Mr Kitcha.
He said Thailand is also a popular investment destination, and most Chinese want to see the country before they invest.
Ananda Travel is targeting honeymoon couples, sea-sports enthusiasts keen for the Andaman Sea and golfers.
Chinese tourists are also valuable because they are eager shoppers, said Mr Kitcha.
"My husband and I chose to visit Thailand due to its wide variety of outstanding attractions, both natural and man-made," said Alice Cheng, 31, from Shanghai.
Jing Meiling, 22, from Hunan, said: "The movie Lost in Thailand as well as my love of Thai entertainers brought me here, as I want to see the real locations used in the film. This is my first visit to Thailand. I like the accommodation, food and culture, so this trip is worthwhile for me. I'm very happy, and if I have a chance, I will come back."
Their favourite destinations are Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, Rayong, Chiang Mai, Hua Hin and Cha-am.
Popular souvenirs for the group include Naraya handbags, fried durian chips, 3-in-1 coffee, accessories, honey and instant noodles.
"I like Naraya handbags as souvenirs for my friends in China because of their beauty, quality, functionality and price," said Xian Mi from Shanghai.
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Writer: Yotsawadee Jarungirakiat