The Tourism and Sports Ministry is confident the country can attract 35 million foreign visitors this year after 3 million arrived in the first month, while tourism operators say expensive tour packages will not affect Chinese tourists from second-tier cities.
Kitti Chaodee, secretary to the tourism and sports minister, said Thailand welcomed more than 90,000 daily arrivals during weekdays and more than 100,000 on weekends in January, creating positive momentum for the year.
The government is offering numerous incentives this year, including visa-free schemes that will be extended for all exempted countries, suspension of TM6 immigration forms at the Thai-Malaysian border checkpoints, and tourism promotion of second-tier cities.
As of Feb 1, Chinese travellers tallied 533,450 this year, followed by arrivals from Malaysia at 337,729 and South Korea at 229,517.
Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta), said the airfares for China-Thailand routes remain higher than in 2019, as the price soared to 4,000-5,000 yuan or around 20,000 baht for a round-trip ticket during Chinese New Year.
However, he said more expensive airfares and tour packages were not obstacles for Chinese travellers from second-tier cities, as many of them prepared to spend their savings for special holidays.
Mr Sisdivachr said the number of charter flights has increased, but mostly for the holidays as tour operators are still reluctant to plan long-term services of six months to one year as they did prior to the pandemic.
He said the government should incentivise charter flight operations and support private operators hosting more roadshows in second-tier cities to lift tourism confidence and build up momentum from large markets, which would help the government achieve its arrivals target more easily.
A roadshow combining two cities would cost around 7-10 million baht, in exchange for opportunities to directly meet more than 800 travel agents in the targeted areas, said Mr Sisdivachr.
Atta members reported more than 127,000 Chinese tourists for January.