When the Chinese government announced it would allow overseas group tours to resume to 20 countries including Thailand from Feb 6, it brought mixed reactions.
While some welcomed the good news that international tourists would increase, others were wary of the bad news that Covid-19 might spread.
Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul believes China's new tourism policy will benefit Thailand's tourism and economy.
He is also confident Thailand will contain the possible spread of Covid-19, said deputy government spokeswoman Traisuree Taisaranakul on Saturday.
Mr Anutin said outbound group tours from China will proceed step by step in an initial pilot phase and with strict regulations imposed on both Chinese travellers and tour agencies, said Ms Traisuree.
The government believes any influx of Chinese group tours will not affect the country's Covid-19 controls.
Chinese tour agencies must follow Covid-19 control measures in countries where their customers visit, while Chinese visitors are being warned to get a Covid-19 test before leaving and pay attention to their health safety while travelling overseas, Ms Traisuree said.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha last week said he had received good news from the government of China that Thailand will be the first country to receive Chinese tourists in the pilot outbound group tour phase, which he appreciated.
The anticipated return of Chinese visitors to Thailand this year will be different in terms of both quantity and quality, said Tanes Petsuwan, deputy governor for international marketing in Asia and South Pacific of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
Tourism income associated with the return of Chinese tourists will also be higher than that recorded in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, he said.
At that time, approximately 11 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand for the entire year and 531 billion baht in tourism income was generated, he said.
Those tourists spent 7.8 days on average in Thailand and each spent on average 6,118 baht a day during their stay or approximately 47,723 baht per person per trip, he said.
Now five of TAT's offices in China -- in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Kunming -- are implementing a tourism strategy called "China is Back" starting with a tourism campaign called "Two Lands, One Heart".
The TAT now expects at least 5 million Chinese tourists to visit Thailand this year, he said.
"Thailand has become Chinese tourists' dream destination following the Thai government's favourable reaction to China's reopening," he said.
During Chinese New Year, Thailand expects to welcome about 30,000 Chinese tourists from Jan 19-27, said TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said.
He said international arrivals are expected to number over half a million, a 1,622% increase over the same period of last Chinese New Year.
TAT expected 29,400 mainland Chinese tourists to arrive during this Lunar New Year, with this demographic being the primary target for the holiday period.
"In 2023, the number of Chinese tourists and the income generated from them during Chinese New Year will see a small recovery," said the governor.
Before group tours arrive, some popular tourist destinations including Yaowarat and the Erawan shrine in Bangkok have reported a small number of Chinese visitors from the mainland.
Achan Chen Jiefu, a monk at Wat Mangkon Kamalawat, Bangkok's largest Chinese Buddhist temple, said there are not many mainland Chinese visitors.
He added that during the Lunar New Year, many Chinese might want to celebrate at home. Larger groups of visitors are expected to come around March and April for the Songkran Festival.
Another Chinese tourist attraction, the Erawan Shrine, has not seen the arrival of large numbers of tourists from mainland China, said 51-year-old Chookiat Kaewfa Charoen, the shrine receptionist. But after next month, things should improve.