Travel agents upbeat on restoring missing visitors
China arrivals tipped to top 11m in 2019
published : 24 Jan 2019 at 07:18
newspaper section: Business
Despite bad news prevailing last year, Thailand has successfully lured back Chinese travellers and the number of arrivals is projected to surpass 11 million this year and 15 million within the next five years, says the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta).
The Phoenix boat accident that claimed the lives of 47 Chinese visitors in Phuket last July slowed arrivals from mainland China, but only for a few months, Atta said.
A major push by authorities on tourism safety standards helped restore confidence, bringing the number of arrivals from China to 10.6 million last year.
Atta president Vichit Prakobgosol expects between 11 million and 11.5 million Chinese tourists to visit Thailand this year. Most of them will be free independent travellers (FITs), rather than joining group tours.
The FIT model has grown popular and is likely to outpace travellers buying tour packages, as evidenced by a decline in the number of arrivals using Atta member services this month.
From Jan 1 to 20, 177,293 Chinese tourists came to Thailand via Atta members, down 7.7% year-on-year.
Chinese tourists will be part of the roughly 40 million international visitors expected in Thailand this year, generating a total of 2.2 trillion baht in tourism revenue, Mr Vichit said.
Large tourist volume will also come from India and Southeast Asia, he said.
Mr Vichit urged the government to speed construction of infrastructure, especially the expansion of airports to accommodate future tourism growth.
Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, predicts 1.03 million foreign visitors during the long Chinese New Year holiday, generating 27.6 billion baht in tourism income, up 8% and 11% respectively from the same period last year.
China remains the biggest source of international arrivals, with some 330,000 Chinese travellers expected during the holiday, up 4% year-on-year, contributing 10.2 billion baht in tourism receipts, up 12%.
Mr Yuthasak's projection is in accord with information from Ctrip.com, China's largest online travel agency, which lists Thailand as the top destination among the countries to which 7 million Chinese will travel during the Lunar New Year period.