Chinese choose other options for Golden Week
Phuket boat sinking deters visitors
Thailand is expected to lose some 50,000 Chinese tourists during China's Golden Week period as a result of incidents that happened over the past three months.
Vichit Prakobkosol, president of the Association of Thai Travels Agents (Atta), predicted the country may lose tourism revenue of 2.1 billion baht from China, calculating from average spending of 6,000 baht per head per day or 42,000 baht for a seven-day trip.
Atta earlier warned the number of Chinese tourists to Thailand will plunge by at least 10% during the Chinese National Holiday or Golden Week, which started on Monday and will run until Oct 7.
The tourist boat tragedy in Phuket in July, followed by a dengue fever epidemic in Thailand and an airport official attacking a Chinese tourist at Don Mueang airport last week are blights on Thailand's tourism image, Mr Vichit said.
He said the main factor for the dip is surely the boat accident in Phuket that prompted a number of tour cancellations while airlines and charter operators have removed Thailand from their seasonal trip schedules.
Mr Vichit said many Chinese tourists shifted to other countries such as Japan and South Korea during the past three months as the Chinese government issued travel advisories and asked tourist to avoid Phuket and other islands in Thailand.
As a result, Japan became a top destination for Chinese going overseas through this week.
This year, it is expected that about 7 million Chinese will travel abroad during Golden Week period, up from 6 million in the same time last year thanks to improving economy. China Tourism Academy reported 71.3 million Chinese made overseas trips during first half this year, represented a 15% year-on-year increase.
The most popular destinations for Chinese tourists in the first half this year are Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Russia, the US and Cambodia respectively.
Ctrip, a leading provider of travel services in China, said the company's ratio of outbound tourists in terms of group tours and independent travel is 50:50.
Yet Japan has overcome Thailand, drawing greater numbers this season, but Mr Vichit is confident that Thailand will reclaim Chinese tourists and return to being the top destination for the Chinese market for the rest of this year.
Chaiya Rapuepon, president of Andaman Tourism Business Association, said hotels and travel companies in the Andaman Sea are seeing fewer guests from the mainland.
He said more than 9.8 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand in 2017. Many of them flocked into Thailand during Chinese New Year and the Golden Week.
"We urge the government to improve safety and security in order to restore confidence from China. If tourists see clear preventive plans, they will return to the country in the remaining months of this year," Mr Chaiya said.
The Thai Hotels Association Southern Chapter reported a 10% plunge in occupancy for hotels in Phuket, and an expected fall of 20% during September-October.
In an effort to woo Chinese tourists, Mr Vichit and Atta executives met on Monday with Weerasak Kowsurat, the tourism and sports minister, calling on the government to waive the visa fee and offer multiple-entry visas specifically for Chinese tourists for a six-month period.
"If the government agrees to this proposal, more Chinese will visit Thailand, not only this year but also for Chinese New Year in 2019. Thailand has been a favourite destination for Chinese tourists for years thanks to unique culture and variety of attractions and food," Mr Vichit said.
An earlier forecast of the Tourism and Sports Ministry predicted arrivals from the mainland this year would increase from 9.8 million in 2017 to 10.9 million, surging to more than 11 million in 2019. In 2017, the China market contributed revenue of 561 billion baht.