TAT sees very happy Chinese New Year

The Tourism Authority of Thailand expects at least 100,000 Chinese tourists to spend the coming Chinese New Year in Thailand, up from 60,000 last year, with the easing of H1N1 flu fears and a perception in China of a calmer political situation in Thailand.

For two years Thai tourism has suffered from concern over the flu outbreak and the country's political turmoil, especially in sensitive countries such as China, said Sansern Ngaorungsi, the executive director of the TAT's East Asia Region.

In the coming Chinese New Year, which falls on St Valentine's Day, the number of Chinese tourist arrivals is forecast to increase by 67% from a year earlier, he said.

But Chinese tourists are changing their behaviour by increasingly travelling on their own and using the internet to pick destinations, instead of relying on tour agents.

China has the world's second-highest internet penetration after the United States and TAT must increase online marketing campaigns in China, he said.

The TAT recently teamed up with easynet.com, a popular tourism website, to run marketing campaigns in China, he said. It will also promote Thailand through local media in China in the first five months of this year. It expects to attract 1,000 couples from Beijing to join mass wedding ceremonies in Thailand.

Mr Sansern is seeking a budget of 60 million baht to promote Thailand in the Chinese market.

For the Chinese New Year festival, the TAT will spend about 20 million baht on promotions in major cities including Hat Yai, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Chon Buri, Nakhon Ratchasima and Nakhon Sawan. Grand celebrations will be held in Yaowarat, commonly known as Bangkok's Chinatown.

Vichit Prakobgosol, the president of the Thai-Chinese Tourism Alliance Association, said Chinese tourists were returning after the association, TAT and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports seriously promoted Thailand and restored confidence throughout 2009.

At least 1.2 million Chinese tourists are expected to visit Thailand in 2010, up from fewer than 1 million last year.

Most Chinese tourists come from the south, followed by central and northern China.

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