400,000 Chinese likely for New Year
The Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta) expects more than 400,000 Chinese tourists to travel to Thailand during next month's Chinese New Year festival, generating 20 billion baht.
Atta president Vichit Prakobkosol said Thailand remains a top destination for Chinese tourists to celebrate the long national holiday period, called Chinese New Year, starting Feb 16.
He said both the number of Chinese arrivals and their spending during the holiday will increase by 10% from last year.
But the association predicts fewer charter flights between the two countries compared with previous years because airlines have introduced more scheduled direct flights between the two.
"More Chinese will travel with their families, friends or as couples, so they do not need tour groups or charter flights," Mr Vichit said.
Last year, 9.8 million Chinese tourists travelled to Thailand, generating 480 billion baht in tourism revenue, up 11% and 9% in volume and value from the previous year.
"The total number of Chinese tourists is expected at 10.8-11 million for this year," Mr Vichit said. "I believe that China will remain the largest source market for international arrivals over the next five years."
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) predicts that total arrivals from mainland China will continue to increase this year and tourism receipts from the market should grow to 528 billion baht, up 10% from last year.
According to Atta, many Chinese tourists are avoiding travel to South Korea because of political tensions, opting to head to Thailand instead.
There is also the significant recovery in the Chinese market after the Thai government moved to crack down on zero-dollar tour packages in 2016.
Mr Vichit said that Atta and the TAT in March plan to organise business roadshows in four secondary cities in China -- Jinan, Shi Jia Zhuang, Zhengzhou and Wu Han -- to attract first-time travellers to Thailand.
In order to cope with the growing Chinese market, Atta and its members are considering bringing Chinese tourists to secondary provinces being promoted by the government.
Many travel companies have been working with bus companies to prepare smaller buses accommodating 30-40 passengers to visit small villages.
The TAT and Atta are also looking at India for tourists because of its large population and growing economy.