Chinese tourists return to Chiang Mai just in time for Lunar New Year
The first planeload of 195 Chinese tourists touched down in Chiang Mai on Wednesday after China scrapped travel restrictions last week.
Juneyao Airlines Flight HO1325 landed at Chiang Mai Airport at 3.30pm and was welcomed by representatives from the provincial Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) office, Tourism Council, and tourism operators in the province.
China was Thailand’s biggest overseas tourism market before the pandemic, with around 11 million Chinese arrivals in 2019. However, Thai tourism authorities expect less than half that number, or about 5 million, to visit the country this year.
So far, five Chinese airlines have opened routes to Chiang Mai, said the airport’s director, Wijit Kaewsaithiam. They are:
- Juneyao Airlines: Shanghai-Chiang Mai daily service starting January 18
- Spring Airlines: Guangzhou-Chiang Mai on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, starting January 20
- China Eastern Airlines: Shanghai-Chiang Mai on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, starting January 21
- Sichuan Airlines: Chengdu-Chiang Mai on Wednesday, starting January 25
- Air China: Beijing-Chiang Mai on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, starting February 8
Wijit said Chiang Mai Airport also has direct flights to other 11 international destinations, namely Inchon, Singapore, Luang Prabang, Da Nang, Hanoi, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Busan, Ho Chi Minh City and Yangon.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the airport operated 29 direct international flights, 19 of which were to China, carrying an average of 5,000 Chinese passengers per day.
In 2019, about 1.78 million Chinese passengers passed through Chiang Mai Airport.
In the first quarter of 2023, most Chinese tourists in Chiang Mai will be travelling independently as tour companies have not started selling packages to Thailand, said Suladda Sarutilavan, director of TAT's Chiang Mai office. However, tourists in groups led by tour guides would start pouring in from the second quarter, she added.
The TAT estimates Chiang Mai will see 600,000 visitors from China this year, or about one-third of the total recorded in 2019. Chiang Mai city and the TAT have planned a year-long calendar of festivals to attract foreign tourists, starting with Chinese New Year on Sunday, the Chiang Mai Flower Festival in February, Songkran in April, and Loy Krathong in November.