By Suwatchai Songwanich
CEO Bangkok Bank (China)
Chunyun, also known as Spring Rush, is the 40-day period in which Chinese people travel home to celebrate the Lunar New Year Spring Festival with their families. With 3 billion trips set to take place between January 21 and March 1 this year, it’s easy to see why Chunyun is referred to as the world’s “largest annual human migration”. According to Airbnb’s data, China’s international travellers make their way to 1,048 cities in 111 countries and regions during the holiday period.
According to Airbnb Southeast Asia head of public policy Mich Goh, the number of guest arrivals from China to Thailand during this period increased by 100 per cent compared to last year. This highlights the growing importance of the local Airbnb community to Thailand’s tourism economy. “Known for their welcoming hospitality, passionate Thais have become the forefront of an important type of tourism that is people-driven, local, authentic and sustainable,” said Goh.
Bangkok was one of the Chinese tourists’ most-visited places, sharing the top-five list with Taiwan, Osaka, Hong Kong and Queenstown. As a bonus, Chon Buri, Hua Hin, Rayong, Saraburi and Ayutthaya are growing in popularity as secondary Thai holiday destinations. Airbnb also saw an increase in bookings for Airbnb “Experiences”, which are designed and hosted by locals. Cooking classes and biking tours in off-the-beaten-track neighbourhoods are among the most booked Experiences in Thailand.
This growth follows a sharp decline in Chinese visits to Thailand last year, a result of a crackdown on “zero dollar” tours, the assault of a Chinese tourist by an airport official, and a boat accident that killed dozens of Chinese tourists. This series of events prompted a number of Chinese tour cancellations, and decisions by airlines and charter operators to remove Thailand from their seasonal trip schedules. This decline rattled Thai officials, as Chinese visitors contribute approximately a third of the total Bt2.09 trillion in foreign tourism revenue.
That Chinese tourists chose to visit Thailand during one of their busiest holiday periods is certainly positive. If Thai officials are able to make genuine and sustained improvements to the security and safety of its foreign visitors, Chinese confidence in Thailand as a safe holiday destination can only grow, and visitor numbers will hopefully follow suit.
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