China loosens curbs on travel

China loosens curbs on travel

A group of Chinese tourists tour the Grand Palace in Bangkok before the Covid-19 outbreak. Thai tour agents are hoping to welcome them back soon. (Photo: Taweechai Tawatpakorn)
A group of Chinese tourists tour the Grand Palace in Bangkok before the Covid-19 outbreak. Thai tour agents are hoping to welcome them back soon. (Photo: Taweechai Tawatpakorn)

The Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT) is more optimistic about Chinese travellers returning after the country slashed its quarantine length in half and gave Thai airlines permission to resume two flights to China per week.

TCT vice-president Vichit Prakobgosol said even though hopes of a full return of the Chinese tourist market remain limited, with only a 50% chance China's quarantine will be scrapped by December, the loosening of restrictions is the most positive sign in more than two years.

The National Health Commission of China announced on Tuesday the quarantine for international arrivals will be reduced to seven days, down from 14 to 21 days.

However, tourism operators still have to wait for the outcome of the National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in the autumn to see a precise decision from the Beijing government.

Mr Vichit said if the borders remain closed until December, it is more likely the quarantine policy will be maintained until after Chinese New Year in January 2023.

"We have to accept if a quarantine policy remains for return to the country, even for just one day, or tourists are still required to pay additional costs, such as for Covid-19 tests, Chinese tourists will refrain from travel and tour operators will not be able to conduct group tours, even with Thailand fully reopened," he said.

Mr Vichit said Thai airlines were planning more flights to China, which could help stimulate mainland business and student travel.

Meanwhile, the Thai tourism confidence index in the second quarter was 53, almost half the tally of 100 back in 2019, when tourism was booming before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chamnan Srisawat, president of the TCT, said the council's 2022 target is 12 million foreign arrivals amid improving confidence nationwide, based on the index.

A score of 53 in the second quarter is a significant improvement from the same quarter last year, when it stood at 11.

The forecast for the third quarter surged to 62, he said.

Any reading below 100 indicates weak industry confidence.

A total of 86% of all types of tourism operators resumed their businesses in the second quarter, while entertainment venues had the lowest resumption rate at 64%.

Meanwhile, the average revenue for all types of tourism operators in the second quarter was 32% of 2019 levels.

Tour operators saw the slowest recovery, at 21% of pre-pandemic levels.

"Tourism businesses should record revenue of at least 30% of pre-pandemic levels to break even," said Mr Chamnan.

"We don't have a choice but to maintain an ambitious target of 12 million foreign arrivals because this is the minimum threshold needed to sustain the overall industry."

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