Tourism council expects Chinese tourists to return in October


The Tourism Council of Thailand is confident that Chinese tourists will return to the Kingdom in October and help boost foreign arrivals this year.

Wichit Prakorbkosol, vice president of the council and president of CCT Express Co Ltd, said Thai tourism operators, who have inside sources in Chinese government agencies, learned that Beijing would allow its citizens to travel abroad starting October 1, which is China’s National Day.

“It is expected that a lot of Chinese tourists will travel to Thailand,” said Wichit, whose Express company is a major inbound tourism operator.

“But we can’t expect the number of Chinese tourists to be around 800,000 to 900,000 a month like the pre-Covid years.”

Speaking to The Nation, Wichit urged the government to lift Covid restrictions for foreign arrivals and fully open the country to foreign tourists in preparation for tourists from China and other countries.

He said if the country is opened fully to foreign tourists without travel restrictions within the second quarter of this year, at least 5 million foreign tourists would arrive in the second half of the year.

“The sooner the country is opened fully, the more advantage we will have over our competitors, who are opening their countries more and more,” Wichit said.

He said it is yet to be seen whether China would open its country fully. If China imposes no travel restrictions on its citizens, the number of Chinese arrivals may boost the number of foreign arrivals in Thailand to about 7 million or 8 million this year, Wichit added.

Wichit said it is expected the inbound tourism industry would recover by 70 per cent next year compared to the pre-Covid level of almost 40 million foreign tourists in 2019 and the industry is expected to fully recover in 2024.

But he said the council expected the inbound tourism trend would change from big tourist groups to small groups. He said operators of tourist coaches with 30 to 40 seats would be in trouble because foreign tourists would prefer travelling in small groups by van.

The foreign tourists in the post-Covid period would focus on resting in hotels, eating at unique restaurants in Bangkok or big cities and choosing to visit places on their own instead of eating and participating in tourism and shopping programmes set by operators, Wichit added.

Meanwhile, Prachoom Tantiprasertsuk, marketing president of the Thai Hotels Association, said most hotels are now hit by shortage of human resources because many staff have left to do their own business and they did not want to return to work in hotels again.

Prachoom said the hotels after the Covid situation had to teach their remaining staff to be multi-skilled. For example, one staff must do at least three tasks, he said.

He said Thai hotels would have to impress returning foreign tourists, who have high expectations of their services, with warm and Thai-style hospitality.

Nok Air CEO Wutthiphum Jurangkool, meanwhile, said his airline expected the return of Chinese tourists in the fourth quarter when the Chinese government is expected to allow its citizens to travel abroad.

He said Nok Air would buy six more Boeing 737-800 planes with 189 seats for opening routes to China, India, Osaka and Ho Chi Minh City in preparation for the return of foreign tourists. The new planes would add increase Nok Air’s fleet to 17, he said.

He said Nok Air would resume flying to international routes in June depending on the travel restrictions of the destination countries.

Teerapol Chotichanapibal, the chief commercial officer of Nok Air, said Nok Air hoped the daily number of its passenger would rise to 12,000 to 13,000 later this year when several countries lift Covid restrictions. Currently, the airline has about 10,000 passengers a day, he added.