SURAT THANI: The Tourism Authority of Thailand expects a significant rise in Chinese tourist arrivals on Koh Samui this month, thanks to the visa-waiver scheme and the upcoming Lunar New Year.
Kanokkittika Kritwuthikorn, TAT's director for Koh Samui, said the government’s visa-waiver announcement has shown a positive impact on Koh Samui’s tourism. A direct flight carrying 138 holidaymakers from China arrived at Samui airport on Feb 1. She expects at least 5,000 Chinese tourists on the island in February.
During the Chinese New Year celebrations, Bangkok Airways will increase direct flights from Chongqing and Chengdu in southwest China to Koh Samui to four days a week – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Some 4,000 Chinese tourists visited the island in January.
Samui is the fourth most-searched destination on the Chinese travel agency platform CTrip, led by Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai, with Pattaya in fifth place.
Mrs Kanokkittika said searches related to the five popular destinations on CTrip increased sevenfold after Thailand and China signed a mutual visa-exemption agreement that will take effect on Mar 1. The deal applies to holders of ordinary passports and passports issued for official duties.
“Samui’s popularity among Chinese travellers is also partly attributed to promotional campaigns by the Tourism Association of Koh Samui and the meetings between local tourism operators and their counterparts in Chongqing and Chengdu,” Mrs Kanokkittika added.