Chinese travel to Thailand restarts

There are positive signs for the medical tourism sector as China will soon allow tour groups to visit Thailand, which will lead to more hotels reopening. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism of China has indicated Thailand is among the first destinations approved for outbound tour groups, while the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) confirms that Chinese groups will be allowed to visit Thailand and 19 other nations from 6 February.

It will take time for airlines to increase flights between Thailand and large cities in China to cater for a large number of Chinese tour groups, likely in the second quarter of 2023. Chinese tourists will also come via the China-Laos railway in the near future.

As airfares remain expensive. Most independent Chinese tourists in 2023 are likely to be those with high purchasing power. When tour groups are allowed to venture out, increasing availability of flights will lead to more affordable prices.

In the long term, Thailand is looking to focus on high-spending travellers by promoting medical and wellness tourism. At present however tourism and medical tourism in Thailand is still struggling to recover.  It is hoped the Chinese will lead the recovery.

From February 6, travel agencies and online companies in China, on a pilot basis, will resume organising outbound group tours and an air ticket + hotel service for Chinese citizens to relevant countries. The list of relevant countries provided by the ministry includes Argentina, Hungary, Egypt, Indonesia, Cambodia, Kenya, Cuba, Laos, Malaysia, the Maldives, New Zealand, the UAE, Singapore, Thailand, Fiji, the Philippines, Russia, Switzerland, Sri Lanka and South Africa.

The risk of Covid infection from travelling Chinese is still high. China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said about 80% of the country’s 1.41 billion people had been infected with COVID-19 since restrictions were lifted in early December. The official death toll is 72,000 but outsiders suggest a true figure is a million.

Some countries require Chinese travellers to take a Covid test, but Thailand has decided not to.

TAT will revise its 2023 tourism revenue target following the allocation of a budget by the government for tourism promotional campaigns. The cabinet approved a total of 3.9 billion baht (US$119m) for promotional campaigns, of which 1.93 billion baht will be used for marketing to help the Thai tourism sector.

TAT will establish partnerships with airlines to increase the number of charter flights connecting potential market cities to the country. The agency will also target countries that have the potential to stimulate spending in their cities through events and road shows, as well as assist tourism operators in strengthening their business in the international market.

TAT will also hold trade shows and road shows to attract visitors through high-spending tourism trends such as luxury, health, and wellness, or responsible tourism. Target markets include China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, and other countries.