Chinese tourists set to lift Thai tourism hopes for turnaround

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A tourist poses for a photo inside the Grand Palace in Bangkok on June 7, 2020, as it reopened for visitors following restrictions to halt the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus.
Photo: AFP/Mladen Antonov

Despite postponements of tourist arrivals, Thailand hopes visitors from China will help kick-start its battered tourism sector which has been decimated by travel bans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The immediate reason for revival of optimism in the Thai tourism sector is a special charter flight that flew 150 Chinese tourists from Guangzhou to the Thai resort island of Phuket after Oct 25, instead of the original schedule on Oct 8.

They will the first foreign tourists allowed into Thailand on special tourist visas, or STV, under a conditional entry scheme for selected groups of foreigners endorsed by the government.

A tourist poses for a photo inside the Grand Palace in Bangkok on June 7, 2020, as it reopened for visitors following restrictions to halt the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. (AFP/Mladen Antonov)

Despite postponements of tourist arrivals, Thailand hopes visitors from China will help kick-start its battered tourism sector which has been decimated by travel bans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The immediate reason for revival of optimism in the Thai tourism sector is a special charter flight that flew 150 Chinese tourists from Guangzhou to the Thai resort island of Phuket after Oct 25, instead of the original schedule on Oct 8.

They will the first foreign tourists allowed into Thailand on special tourist visas, or STV, under a conditional entry scheme for selected groups of foreigners endorsed by the government.

Thailand’s Tourism and Sports Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakarn said on Oct 7 the tourists would fly directly to Phuket on a chartered AirAsia flight. Later, Thailand’s National Security Council Secretary-General Natthaphon Nakpanit confirmed that tourists would only arrive in Phuket after the annual vegetarian festival.

The Phuket Vegetarian Festival will be taking place with light and sound and other performances in Phuket’s major towns from Oct 17 to 25.

Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew also made an abrupt announcement on social media that he had decided to delay the arrival of tourists out of concern that local residents may fear going outdoor to celebrate the festival with the presence of foreign tourists.

The tourism minister also said another group of 126 Chinese tourists, from Guangdong, will fly into Suvarnabhumi International Airport, in Bangkok, on a chartered Thai Smile flight. This will be followed by tourists from the Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Norway and Sweden) and the 26-member Schengen countries – on a Thai Airways International flight on Nov 1.

Thailand’s tourism industry has recorded exponential growth in recent years, largely due to the influx of tourists from the Chinese mainland. But the pandemic has decimated tourism not only in Thailand but globally with airlines grounded and national borders closed.

Michael Langham, senior Asia country risk analyst for Fitch Solutions, said Thailand’s economy is highly dependent on tourism.

He told China Daily tourist receipts account for around 13 percent of gross domestic product and combined tourism and travel accounted for around 22 percent of GDP last year.

“Of this, Chinese tourists are by far the most significant for Thailand, accounting for 27.6 percent of arrivals and 28.1 percent of tourist receipts,” he said.

“If you take into account the large informal economy around the tourism sector, estimates put jobs related to tourism and travel at around one in six,” Langham said.

However, the knock-on effects to broader domestic demand, investment activity and government finances will amplify the overall impact of tourism, he said.

Sandra Seno-Alday, a lecturer at the University of Sydney Business School, said prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Thailand had a large and successful tourism sector.

“The pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions devastated the sector. The Thai government’s response to the pandemic, however, has been robust and widely praised.”

Rajiv Biswas, Asia Pacific chief economist for global consultancy IHS Markit, said the pandemic has “become an extreme Black Swan event for the Asia-Pacific tourism industry, with international travel across the region having collapsed due to travel bans on foreign tourist arrivals by most Asia-Pacific governments, including in Thailand.” The term ‘black swan’ was coined by a former Wall Street trader Nassim Nicholas Taleb as a metaphor for an unexpected situation with potentially severe consequences.

Read the full article at The Jarkarta Post: https://www.thejakartapost.com/travel/2020/10/13/chinese-tourists-set-to-lift-thai-tourism-hopes-for-turnaround.html

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