Tourism faces rivals in China campaign

Tourism faces rivals in China campaign

Obstacle is travel within mainland

Tourists from China gesture upon being greeted by officials as they arrive at Suvarnabhumi airport following the visa-free campaign initiated in September. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Tourists from China gesture upon being greeted by officials as they arrive at Suvarnabhumi airport following the visa-free campaign initiated in September. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

The Thai tourism industry is unfazed by more intense competition from other countries also offering visa exemptions to Chinese visitors as Thailand still claims the largest market share from the mainland and expenditure has risen per trip, says the Tourism and Sports Ministry.

Many other nations are offering visa exemptions for Chinese tourists, including Kazakhstan, Maldives and Sri Lanka, but Thailand remains the top foreign destination for tourists, said Tourism and Sports Minister Sudawan Wangsuphakijkosol.

Ms Sudawan said Thailand has an advantage because of its diverse tourism products, comprising nature, historical sites and beaches.

The visa-free policy is expected to build momentum through next year, as flight traffic is increasing despite slower than expected travel demand, she said.

The ministry will focus on attracting new flights connecting China's second-tier cities and Thailand's provincial airports, such as Krabi, Chiang Mai and Phuket, said Ms Sudawan.

Thapanee Kiatphaibool, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), said as authorities downgraded their target to 4 million Chinese arrivals this year, the agency registered higher expenditure per trip from pre-pandemic levels, at 58,000-60,000 baht.

A major challenge with the Chinese market is domestic travel incentives within China, as Beijing continues to offer programmes to stimulate the sluggish economy, she said.

Nonglux Yooyendee, director of TAT's Shanghai office, said the agency plans to promote more direct chartered flights during the holiday season and Chinese New Year to beach provinces such as Krabi.

In 2019, the Shanghai office claimed the largest share with 4 million visitors out of 10 million total Chinese arrivals. The city is a major connection hub for China to the world.

Ms Nonglux said there are currently about 40,000 available seats per week between Thailand and Shanghai, as well as other nearby eastern cities in China.

New potential segments include young millennials, who mostly stay in 4- and 5-star hotels and are willing to seek unique experiences apart from shopping, she said.

The TAT signed a letter of intent yesterday with Alibaba Group's travel platform Fliggy, aiming to stimulate the Chinese market and ensure tourism confidence.

TAT and Fliggy plan to introduce hidden gem destinations to the Chinese market and offer promotions during holiday seasons.

To ensure safe travel in Thailand, Fliggy intends to launch a 24-hour online service centre for Chinese tourists.

The platform has served more than 440 million users and offers 10,000 Thai tourism products. Recent promotions include 11.11 travel campaigns and a Similan Island marketing campaign.

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