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Thailand granted visa-free entry to Chinese tourists, with 11 million visitors in 2019. What gives?

Thailand expects 3.4-3.5 million visitors from China this year, which is below its target, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said on Friday, despite rolling out a visa-free program to attract Chinese tourists.

About 3.01 million Chinese tourists have visited the country so far this year, it said. China has been a key source market for Thailand’s vital tourism industry, with 11 million Chinese visitors in pre-pandemic 2019, accounting for more than a quarter of all arrivals that year.

“China’s slowing economy makes people worry about spending on tourism,” Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, TAT’s deputy governor for international marketing in Asia and South Pacific, told a briefing.

A recent mall shooting in Bangkok also affected tourist confidence, he added.

The TAT in June had expected about 4-4.4 million Chinese tourists this year, he said. That was down from the government’s initial target of 5 million.

Overall foreign tourist arrivals were at about 23.88 million since the start of the year, Chattan said.

The government is targeting 28 million arrivals versus a pre-pandemic record of nearly 40 million foreign tourist arrivals in 2019 who spent 1.91 trillion baht ($54.37 billion).

“The Chinese side has always encouraged China and Thailand to strengthen tourism cooperation,” said Mao Ning, a spokesperson at the Chinese foreign ministry.

“We, like Thailand, look forward to more mutual visits of tourists to each other’s countries,” said Mao, when asked at a regular news conference on Thailand’s tourist estimate.

($1 = 35.13 baht)

(Reporting by Satawasin Staporncharnchai; Additional reporting by Joe Cash in Beijing; Writing by Orathai Sriring; Editing by Martin Petty, Kanupriya Kapoor)

Copyright (2023) Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions


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Tags: china, chinese tourism, thailand, visa waiver

Photo credit: Thailand's elephant camps have added more of the jumbo species to accommodate Chinese tourists. Source: Guillen Perez for VisualHunt Guillen Perez / VisualHunt

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