The Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT) and the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta) have urged the government to resuscitate Chinese confidence through tour agents in the mainland as this approach can guarantee safety for tourists.
Chamnan Srisawat, president of the TCT, said the government should not be hasty in making a decision on permanent visa exemptions for the Chinese market, instead evaluating the impact from the five-month exemption that ends in February next year before making any decision.
Mr Chamnan said the visa-free policy will benefit the tourism industry if the government does more to encourage tour operators in China to create tour packages for clients.
The visa exemption should encourage tour operators to offer more tour programmes, which are an appropriate option for Chinese reluctant to visit Thailand because of rumours about crimes targeting tourists, he said.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) signed a letter of intent with eight Chinese companies last week, which Mr Chamnan viewed as a promising initiative because online channels owned by large corporations should gradually help remove negative content about Thailand.
If the Thai government announces a list of accredited tour companies that have standards to safeguard tourists, it would create word of mouth among travellers, encouraging friends and relatives to visit Thailand, he said.
"The next step following the letter signing is to arrange a roadshow in China to give government representatives and tourism operators in Thailand the chance to directly communicate with outbound tour operators there, encouraging them to increase tour package sales," said Mr Chamnan.
Atta president Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn said in the past few months outbound tour operators in China turned to selling tour packages to Singapore and Malaysia instead of Thailand because of low tourist confidence.
He said while the number of tourists from tour groups was relatively small, if the government pushed this segment it could help restore confidence.
Mr Sisdivachr agreed a roadshow for tour agents in China is necessary as Thailand needs to use every method available to restore confidence before offering a permanent visa exemption.
Atta plans to conduct its own roadshow in two cities, with the main destination Beijing and the other either Shanghai, Kunming or Chengdu, he said.
Thapanee Kiatphaibool, the TAT governor, said 4-4.4 million Chinese tourists are projected to arrive this year.
She said the agency acknowledges it must do more to remove negative online content about Thai tourism, replacing it with good news about the country.