First planeload of 200 Chinese tourists to land in Thailand on Monday
The first flight carrying around 200 Chinese tourists will touch down at Suvarnabhumi Airport on Monday as China resumes outbound travel, Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said on Thursday.
The flight from Xiamen in southern China will be the first to arrive in Thailand after China scraps quarantine measures on Sunday, giving the green light for citizens to travel. The country is also downgrading Covid-19 from a top-tier Class A infectious disease to Class B.
Phiphat said the first flight is a good sign that Chinese tourists will return to Thailand in large numbers following more than two years of Covid-19 restrictions. He said more flights will be restored before the Chinese New Year, which falls on January 22. China was Thailand’s largest overseas tourism market before Covid, accounting for 28% of total arrivals.
The tourism minister said he has urged airlines to increase flights from Bangkok to tourist provinces such as Phuket and Chiang Mai, as well as the Northeast, in the weeks before and during Chinese New Year to distribute Chinese tourists to other cities and reduce crowding at Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Airlines have also been urged to consider opening a new direct flight from Kunming to Hat Yai in the South, he added.
“We should see an influx of Chinese tourists from April to June onward, despite it being low season,” Phiphat said.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) estimates around 300,000 Chinese arrivals in the first quarter and at least 5 million for the whole year. That should push up the number of foreign tourists arriving in Thailand throughout 2023 to at least 25 million, it added.
“About 60,000 Chinese tourists will visit Thailand in January, with another 90,000 in February and 150,000 in March,” said Thanes Phetsuwan, TAT deputy governor of marketing for Asia-Pacific.
Thailand has imposed no special restrictions on Chinese travellers, who face the same entry requirements as all other international arrivals – full vaccination (two doses) and a negative RT-PCR test taken within 48 hours. Other countries including the US and Japan have imposed special rules for arrivals from China, where the Covid-19 infection rate is soaring.
Thanes said foreign tourists are also required to purchase health insurance, but this should not affect the number of Chinese visitors as health insurance only costs about 400 baht in China.
Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob said he will lead an inspection of Suvarnabhumi Airport next Thursday to ensure Thailand’s main entry point is prepared for the influx of tourists from China ahead of Chinese New Year.