Chinese rate Thailand No 4 as tourists return

Chinese rate Thailand No 4 as tourists return

Tourists relax at Jomtien Beach, near Pattaya, in Chon Buri province on July 29, 2022. (Photo courtesy of the Marine Department)
Tourists relax at Jomtien Beach, near Pattaya, in Chon Buri province on July 29, 2022. (Photo courtesy of the Marine Department)

Thailand is among the five most favourite destinations for Chinese travellers as the easing of Covid-19 pandemic restrictions sees more Chinese taking trips outside of the country, according to government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana.

Mr Thanakorn cited a news report claiming Thailand currently ranks fourth among the most preferred destinations for mainland Chinese, after South Korea, Japan and the US but ahead of France.

The ranking was reported by the Global Times, a tabloid controlled by the Chinese Communist Party's flagship newspaper, the People's Daily.

Mr Thanakorn said on Friday that the relaxing of travel restrictions imposed to curtail the Covid-19 pandemic by Beijing is pushing up outbound Chinese travellers. It is expected to give the Thai tourism industry a big break as mainland Chinese formerly made up one-quarter of international tourists to the kingdom.

So far this month, there has been a 200% jump in international flights out of China compared to the same period last month. The number is forecast to rise as the year progresses.

Before the pandemic, more than 10 million tourists from China travelled to Thailand annually, creating tremendous economic value.

Last month, international arrivals via all modes of transportation stood at 1.05 million, up 118% from the monthly average of 482,719 from January to June.

Most took flights, accounting for 99% of arrivals, Mr Thanakorn said, citing figures from the Transport Ministry.

More international visitors are expected to arrive in the second half of the year. "This is an encouraging sign for the tourism industry as it seeks a major turnaround," he said.

The recovery in air travel remains strong, according to the latest update by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Total traffic in June -- measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) -- was up 76.2% on-year. Globally, it is now at 71% of the pre-crisis level.

Domestic traffic for this June was up 5.2% on-year. Strong improvements in most markets, combined with the easing of some Omicron-related lockdown restrictions in China, contributed.

International traffic rose 229.5% versus June 2021. The lifting of travel restrictions in most parts of Asia-Pacific is contributing to the recovery. In international RPKs this June stood at 65% of the level seen three years prior.

"Demand for air travel remains strong. After two years of lockdowns and border restrictions people are taking advantage of the freedom to travel wherever they can," said Willie Walsh, the IATA's director general.

Asia-Pacific airlines saw a 492% rise in traffic in June on-year. Capacity rose 138.9% while their load factor -- a reference to how many paying customers fill a flight -- was up 45.8 percentage points to 76.7%.

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