China arrivals in Thailand below expectation, may miss target of 5 mil this year

China arrivals in Thailand below expectation, may miss target of 5 mil this year

Inconvenient visa process, gradual flight resumption bedevil tourism industry

BANGKOK – The number of Chinese visitors to Thailand might not reach the target of five million this year, as arrivals in the first four months were lower than expected.

According to Vietnam news agency (VNA), Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta), said the tourism industry needs to wait for the second half of the year to gain a clearer outlook after Chinese arrivals were sluggish over the first four months.

As of April 18, the number of Chinese visitors tallied around 695,000, only 14% of the target, it reported.

The start of the year was promising, mainly driven by pent-up demand from the Chinese market during the Lunar New Year festival in January, which this year took place just two weeks after Beijing announced the lifting of travel restrictions on January 7.

The number of Chinese arrivals in the first two months tallied 247,497 before gradually picking up to 269,745 in March, as more flights were added.

However, Sisdivachr said apart from insufficient seat capacity and rising travel costs, tourists who want to come to Thailand also face obstacles with visa applications.

He said Atta received a number of reports from tourists about the inconvenient visa process, which prompted most of them to opt for visas on arrival instead, while some tourists changed their plans and decided not to visit the country.

He acknowledged that with visa obstacles and gradual flight resumption, it might be difficult to achieve five million Chinese visitors this year unless there is a dramatic surge in the second half.

Thailand recorded almost 6.5 million foreign arrivals in the first quarter this year, still a wide margin from the 10.7 million posted in the same period of 2019.

VNA also reported that Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said the agency discussed the visa complaints with the private sector, but the sides did not reach a resolution.

He said the difficulties with visa procedures were related to a limit for e-visa applications of 80,000 per month.

– Bernama, April 24, 2023

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