Thailand eyes return of Chinese tourists during Lunar New Year holiday

By Hoang Phong   December 16, 2022 | 12:43 am PT
Thailand eyes return of Chinese tourists during Lunar New Year holiday
Chinese tourists wear masks as they arrive at Suvarnabhumi Airport during a welcome ceremony of Chinese Lunar New Year travelers in Bangkok, January 22, 2020. Photo by Reuters
Thailand expects to welcome back Chinese tourists during the Chinese New Year holiday next month, or within the first quarter at the latest, as China begins lifting Covid-19 restrictions.

Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), said at a recent meeting that there’s a possibility China will begin to allow its citizens to travel outside the country as early as the Chinese New Year, called Tet in Vietnam, which will begin on January 22.

"Hopefully, Thailand will be on a list of countries the Chinese government allows its people to visit," he said, according to the Bangkok Post.

Thailand welcomed its 10 millionth foreign tourist of the year last week, meeting its target for the year.

Southeast Asia's second-largest economy expects to welcome 20 million foreign arrivals next year. Tourists from ASEAN and other Asian countries will be Thailand’s main source of visitors next year.

China was also the largest source of tourists in Southeast Asia before the pandemic hit.

Thailand welcomed up to 11 million Chinese visitors in 2019, accounting for more than 25% of the country's total international arrivals that year (39 million).

Vietnam, which used to heavily rely on visitors from China, is also making plans to welcome back tourists from its biggest tourism market.

Authorities in the northern border town of Mong Cai, near Ha Long Bay, urged businesses and facilities that cater to tourists to upgrade infrastructure and increase staff training in preparation for their first Chinese travelers in three years.

Vietnam resumed air services to China last week after a three-year Covid hiatus.

China was Vietnam's biggest source of tourist arrivals until the pandemic intervened, with nearly 5.8 million Chinese visiting in 2019.

In the absence of Chinese tourists, Vietnam only received 2.95 million foreign visitors in the first 11 months of this year, or just a little more than half its goal of five million arrivals for the year.

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