Tourism sector preps for Chinese
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Tourism sector preps for Chinese

Mainland demand remains unclear

People travel to see flowers amid the cool weather at Mon Jam, Mae Rim district, Chiang Mai. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)
People travel to see flowers amid the cool weather at Mon Jam, Mae Rim district, Chiang Mai. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)

Tourism operators are prepared for a wave of Chinese tourists in terms of hotel room capacity, public health hygiene and flight capacity, though demand remains unclear.

The government confirmed on Thursday Chinese tourists will be exempted from RT-PCR Covid tests upon arrival, but will be required to buy Covid insurance to guarantee they have medical expense coverage in case they are infected before flying back home.

Phunut Thanalaopanich, president of the northern chapter of the Thai Hotels Association (THA), said Chiang Mai is ready to accommodate all tourists, including those from China, which are expected to return starting this month.

He said hotel employees are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and were asked to wear masks while on duty.

Starting at the end of this month, hoteliers will ask Chinese guests to show negative test results, whether from an antigen test kit or RT-PCR, before checking in.

Mr Phunut said most hotels in Chiang Mai under the THA apply this pre-screening measure to every guest, regardless of nationality.

Hotels also require vaccine certificates and apply random Covid-19 testing to ensure tourism confidence, he said.

The Provincial Public Health Office recently announced a campaign to provide booster shot vaccines for workers in the tourism sector from Jan 23-29, offering 3,000 daily doses.

Most hotels in Chiang Mai don't plan to recruit more workers or open more rooms as the inventory is deemed adequate to accommodate Chinese tourists in the first quarter, said Mr Phunut.

At present, more than 90% of hotels in Chiang Mai have been reopened.

He said there are no bookings from Chinese guests at the moment, but travellers have started to make inquiries about hotel rooms for future stays.

Mr Phunut said hotels are expected to receive bookings from next month.

Chiang Mai recorded more than 3 million foreign tourists in 2019, with Chinese accounting for 60-70%, he said.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand forecasts 300,000 Chinese arrivals in the first quarter this year, starting with only 60,000 visitors in January because of limited seat capacity.

Pinyot Pibulsonggram, director of commercial sales for Thai Vietjet (TVJ), said the airline is cooperating with Chinese travel agents to conduct feasibility studies on potential routes and new cities in China.

Mr Pinyot said demand among Chinese travellers is expected for three key cities: Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai.

TVJ operates two flights a week from Thailand to Nanjing and Kunming.

Prior to the pandemic, TVJ chartered flights connecting 20 cities in the mainland, totalling 4-5 daily flights.

During the recent New Year's holiday week, Mr Pinyot said the airline's load factor exceeded 85% for both domestic and international routes.

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