Chinese arrivals could fall 8% in August
The number of Chinese tourists travelling to Thailand is expected to drop by 5-8% this month in the wake of last month's Phuket boat accident.
Heavy trip cancellations were seen after a tour boat capsized, claiming 47 Chinese lives.
As many as 600,000 Chinese tourists cancelled trips to Thailand last month, representing 37 billion baht in revenue lost, according to the Tourism and Sports Ministry.
In July, the China market plunged by 26% when compared with the same month last year.
Pongpanu Svetarundra, the permanent secretary of the ministry, said visitors from mainland China will continue to decrease to 900,000-930,000 this month, representing a 5-8% year-on-year drop.
If the prediction is right, tourism receipts from the China market will fall to 53-55 billion baht this month, marking a 1-4% year-on-year decline.
"The boat tragedy in Phuket on July 5 caused the plunge," Mr Pongpanu said. "However, we hope Chinese tourists return in September and the remaining months of the year."
The ministry remains confident that it will meet this year's target of 38 million foreign visitors and tourism income of 2 trillion baht.
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said after meeting Thursday with tourism authorities and business operators that the government will continue to focus on China as the largest source of arrivals for tourism.
Mr Somkid said the tourism sector still saw high growth during the first half of the year, but he conceded that the industry is likely to see a temporary drop in response to the Phuket accident.
During the first six months, international tourist arrivals reached 19.48 million, up 12.6% year-on-year.
The top three originating markets were China, Malaysia and India.
Tourism revenue from international tourists came in at 1 trillion baht, a 15.9% year-on-year increase.
Mr Somkid has instructed authorities responsible for the China market to restore safety and confidence ahead of the high season, which begins in October this year and ends early next year.
"We have to encourage Chinese tourists back to Thailand during Golden Week from Oct 1 to 7" he said.
Golden Week is a public holiday in China that is considered a time for travel.
Mr Somkid said he ordered the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to organise a familiarisation trip to China next month for Thai tourism operators to meet with Chinese operators and restore business.
The TAT will soon bring Chinese media to visit Phuket and attractions on the Andaman coast to keep them informed of improvements and safety procedures in the region.
Mr Somkid also asked the TAT to create an online application specifically for the China market.
The application will consist of tourism news, information and assistance procedures in case help is needed.
But the visa fee exemption for Chinese tourists earlier requested by the private sector may not be necessary.
"The Phuket incident, however, has created an opportunity for Thailand to improve safety and security not only for Phuket, but for the entire country," Mr Somkid said. "We have to provide safety for all tourists."
Thai and Chinese tourism authorities are scheduled to meet in Bangkok later this month to discuss preventive safety and security and pin down the real cause of the boat calamity.
Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat said the ministry will continue to develop Phuket as a marine and cruise hub.
The ministry is considering a new cruise route linking Ranong province with Bangladesh. Moreover, a ferry route between Sattahip on the eastern coast and Pran Buri on the western coast will be created in the future to complement the existing Pattaya-Hua Hin route.