Govt turns to Chinese influencers to allay tourist concerns

Govt turns to Chinese influencers to allay tourist concerns

FILE PHOTO: A Chinese tourist is welcomed by Thai traditional puppets during a welcome ceremony of the first batch of Chinese tourists under a five-month visa-free entry scheme at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, Sept 25, 2023. (Reuters)
FILE PHOTO: A Chinese tourist is welcomed by Thai traditional puppets during a welcome ceremony of the first batch of Chinese tourists under a five-month visa-free entry scheme at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, Sept 25, 2023. (Reuters)

The government plans to tap Chinese social-media influencers and companies like Huawei Technologies and Alipay to promote the country as a tourist haven in an effort to more than double the number of travellers from its largest source of visitors before the pandemic.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand will invite creators on ByteDance’s Douyin platform to produce travel content and invite media and travel agents to tour the country to attract prospective travellers, Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, a deputy governor, said at a briefing in Bangkok.

Attracting Chinese travellers is the key to tourism-reliant Thailand’s ambitious target of luring 40 million visitors next year and generating 3.1 trillion baht in revenue. The government aims to more than double the tally of Chinese visitors to 8.2 million in 2024 from about 3.5 million this year, Mr Chattan said.

While a visa-waiver unveiled in September for Chinese nationals helped bolster arrivals during the mid-autumn festival holidays, the killing last month of a Chinese tourist in a Bangkok shopping-mall shooting dented confidence, according to officials. Most Chinese travellers headed to Hong Kong and Macau in the first half of this year, with Japan and Vietnam also remaining popular, Mr Chattan said.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand on Thursday signed an agreement with Fliggy, a popular Chinese travel platform owned by Alibaba Group, to jointly promote the country as safe to visit. It will also roll out promotions with Huawei, Meituan, Spring Airlines and Sina News, Mr Chattan said. 

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has identified tourism as a “quick win” to accelerate the nation’s economic growth with the sector accounting for about 12% of gross domestic product and nearly a fifth of jobs. The government has also temporarily waived visas for travellers from Russia, Kazakhstan, India and Taiwan, and ordered airlines to add more routes while streamlining airport operations to reduce waiting times for visitors.

Arrivals of Chinese nationals are seen increasing next year as airlines add more flights and domestic economic conditions improve, Mr Chattan said, adding travellers were also expected to stay longer and spend more.

Chinese were already Thailand’s largest group of tourists before the pandemic. They accounted for more than a quarter of the 40 million visitors in 2019 but have tallied only about 3 million so far this year.

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