By PETCHANET PRATRUANGKRAI
“The new law, which will reduce the number of Chinese visitors on pre-arranged tours, is likely to hit Thailand’s previous target of 5 million Chinese visitors next year. However, the number of Foreign Individual Travellers (FIT) is expected to increase steadily and will eventually bring more inbound Chinese visitors into the Kingdom,” said Minister of Tourism and Sports, Somsak Pureesrisak.
The new regulations covering outbound tourism from China, prevent tour operators from arranging cheap packages that allow them to make commissions from tourists by forcing them to visit pre-selected shopping areas. According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), the number of Chinese travellers grew more than 90 percent in the first three quarters of this year to 3.7 million.
It projects that the number of Chinese tourists – the largest group of foreign visitors to Thailand – will reach 4 million by the end of this year.
China’s 2.7 million visitors to Thailand last year spent an average of Bt4,826 a day, totalling Bt105.94 billion in revenue.
Somsak said with China’s new regulations ridding the country of the cheap “zero-dollar” tours, the quality of independent travellers would rise – doubling the average daily spending of Chinese visitors. The new law would also help to promote Thailand as a quality-tourist destination, he added.
In response to the new regulations, a number of Chinese travel agents had already raised the price of their tour packages, Somsak said, adding that the new law also banned agents from making profits from hidden costs to the traveller – such as mandatory shopping.
Tourism, a million-dollar business in China, is a major driver of its economy.
More than 27 million tourists visited China last year and it is also the world’s biggest exporter of tourists – predicted to reach 90 million this year from 82 million in 2012.
TAT governor Suraphon Svetasreni said the Chinese government’s decision to eliminated zero-dollar tours would benefit Thailand in the long run. Although number of Chinese travellers to Thailand had dropped since the law was introduced, better-quality tourists with more spending power would soon be visiting Thailand, he said.
Since the law has come into affect the average price of Chinese tours to Thailand had doubled, said Somsak.
The new pricing, he said, was in accordance with the market and did not include hidden costs that would hurt tourists and Thailand’s reputation.
He said not only would Thailand benefit from the changes, but the Chinese government’s campaign to guide its citizens on how to behave while travelling abroad, would also improve the quality of Chinese travellers visiting the country.
In related news, the 15th China International Travel Mart 2013 will be held at the Kunming International Convention and Exhibition Centre from this Thursday through Sunday. More than 1,100 tour operators from over 100 countries will be selling tours at the travel mart.
Under the theme “Thainess” the TAT and private enterprises will set up at the travel mart this year in a 180-square-metre pavilion in Hall 3.
Fifty-one Thai travel enterprises will be attending the event.