Chinese comeback awaited in October
More than 250,000 Chinese visitors are expected to travel to Thailand during China's Golden Week, up about 20% from the same period last year when the industry was reeling from the fatal tour-boat accident off of Phuket.
The festival falls on Oct 1-7.
Vichit Prakobgosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta), said Thailand could enjoy a windfall from the prolonged protests in Hong Kong, which used to be a top destination for Chinese tourists.
"Continued riots in the territory are likely to shift the travel plans of mainlanders during the week to other countries," Mr Vichit said.
He is uncertain whether Thailand can benefit as the baht remains strong against the yuan, resulting in more expensive travel costs.
Mr Vichit estimated tourism receipts during Golden Week at 13 billion baht, based on average spending of 50,000 baht a day, similar to last year, with average stays of 6-7 days per trip.
He said about half of arrivals will be young independent travellers from lower-tier cities. This segment has grown rapidly from only 20% of total travellers three years ago.
As of Aug 20, Atta reported 2.04 million of Chinese arrivals used it members' services. The volume dropped by 11.3% from the same period last year.
But Mr Vichit is confident the number of Chinese visitors will rebound in the coming high season, reaching 11 million this year, compared with 10.5 million in 2018.
Agoda, an online travel booking platform, reports Thailand is the No.2 preferred destination, behind Japan, for Golden Week, one of China's busiest travel periods.
Thailand has become a favourite of Chinese nationals over the past decade thanks to bustling cities, restful beaches and shopping.
One of the main factors influencing Chinese visits to Thailand is the country's relatively low costs. The Thai government has resolved to extend the period for free visas on arrival for Chinese nationals until the end of April 2020.
Bangkok has retained its position as the No.1 Thai destination for the third consecutive year, with Phuket and Chiang Mai taking second and third, respectively.
Suksit Suvundikul, vice-president of Thai Hotels Association, southern chapter, said the occupancy rate in Patong has increased by 10% for Golden Week. The rate is moderate because the festival is held during the off-peak season for hotels in the area. Chinese tourists visiting Phuket hotels fell by 50%, with shorter stays per booking.