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As Thai airlines post substantial losses, in part because of a lack of visitors from China, the Land of Smiles is working hard to tempt more travellers to visit


Thailand welcomed 35.4 million international arrivals last year, making it the 10th most visited country in the world, according to United Nations World Tourism Organisation figures. The only Asian destination to outdo it was China (No 4; see below).



The answer is simple: Chinese tourists, or, rather, a distinct lack thereof.

Ever since 47 Chinese visitors died in a boat accident off the coast of Phuket in July, Thailand’s biggest source of arrivals has diminished, largely due to concerns over safety and a bungled response from a Thai official who blamed Chinese tour operators for the disaster. Other PR catastrophes followed, led by a viral video of a guard at Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport slapping a Chinese visitor. The weaker yuan amid the United States-China trade war is also believed to have curbed travel from the Middle Kingdom.



Phuket boat tragedy could cost Thailand 670,000 Chinese tourists


It is not just airlines that are suffering. Speaking to The Phuket News, the president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, Vichit Prakobkosol, said hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops and bus-charter companies were also among the businesses affected.

受到影响的不只有航空公司,泰国旅行社协会会长Vichit Prakobkosol接受布吉岛新闻采访表示,酒店、饭店、纪念品店、巴士租赁公司也都受到了巨大的影响。

China, you’ll not be surprised to learn, is one of the countries to benefit from the visa-fee waiver. Hopeful the initiative will bring this year’s overall arrivals to 38.4 million, an increase on the 37.5 million tourists originally forecast by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, officials have also included on their list growing source markets such as India, Saudi Arabia.


However, observers note that nowhere else can make up for China’s sheer number of deep-pocketed holidaymakers. Consider that less than 10 per cent of Chinese citizens possess a passport, a number that Ctrip, the country’s largest online travel agent, expects to double within two years, and that tourists from the Middle Kingdom outspent their nearest rivals, those from the US, by US$123 billion globally in 2017.


Without arrivals from China, Thailand’s tourism sector, and the economic growth that it supports, will continue to slump. The Land of Smiles must turn the charm offensive back on; stop slapping around Chinese visitors, you hear!