High hopes for 1.5m Chinese tourists
Minister thinks they could return this year
Chinese President Xi Jinping's attendance at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Bangkok could help Thailand secure 12 million international tourists this year, surpassing the government's goal of 10 million, says Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakan.
Mr Phiphat said he believes 1.5 million Chinese travellers will visit Thailand in December if Mr Xi allows outbound tourism to resume that month.
Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday Mr Xi confirmed he would attend the Apec summit on Nov 18-19.
"I am confident we will definitely reach the goal of 10 million foreign tourists by the end of this year," Mr Phiphat said.
The country exceeded the halfway point with 5.7 million inbound visitors in the first nine months of 2022.
He said 1.5 million foreign tourists are expected to visit Thailand each month between October and December, which would push the total for the year to more than 10 million.
If extra Chinese tourists are included, the inbound market could reach 12 million, said Mr Phiphat.
He said because the Tourism and Sports Ministry and the Tourism Authority of Thailand have maintained a close relationship with Chinese authorities during the pandemic, he hopes China might relax travel restrictions in December as a gift for Thailand, the host of the summit.
Mr Phiphat said flights between Thailand and southern China have more than doubled to 15 per week, up from seven flights per week, with most passengers students and businessmen.
Meanwhile, a full Japanese reopening on Oct 11 is expected to benefit both Thailand and Japan, as tourist exchanges between the two countries were very strong prior to the pandemic, with high numbers of travellers in both directions.
According to the Tourism and Sports Ministry, Thailand received 1.78 million Japanese travellers in 2019, while the Japan National Tourism Organization reported 1.31 million Thai tourists in the same year.
Mr Phiphat said a further easing of entry controls in the large markets of Hong Kong and Taiwan will enable stronger tourist flows from those markets and Thailand, particularly outbound to Hong Kong as the city is a preferred destination for Thais.
Thai outbound tourists to Hong Kong and Taiwan in 2019 totalled 429,069 and 379,450, respectively.
For the domestic Thai market, he said the number of local trips should reach 160 million as targeted, thanks to the "We Travel Together" subsidy campaign and the co-payment scheme.
Moreover, some local travellers might refrain from making overseas trips because of health and safety concerns, said Mr Phiphat.
Despite his confidence in the arrival numbers, he said one concern is lower spending by visitors, which could affect the 1.5-trillion-baht revenue target set by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha earlier this year.