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“Full Steam Ahead”: Thailand Celebrates the Return of Chinese Tourists
02 July 2022 | Written by Chris Alexander

At the end of June, the Civil Aviation Administration of China granted permission for two weekly flights to Thailand, signalling the return of Chinese travellers to the Land of Smiles for the first time in nearly two years. Flyers and tourism officials have welcomed the news, and expect the frequency of services to increase steadily in the coming weeks.

Chinese officials made their decision following the lifting of travel restrictions and Thailand’s return to normal tourism operation in recent months. With the Thailand Pass entry requirements recently scrapped and health protocols relaxed in all tourism areas, officials are ready to welcome back more international visitors and invest fully in Thailand’s tourism recovery.

“Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was delighted by the CAAT’s decision to resume flights to China,” said deputy government spokeswoman Traisuree Taisaranakul in a recent statement. “The Tourism Authority of Thailand is prepared to go full steam ahead in promoting tourism with almost all stringent restrictions to entry for foreigners to be scrapped.”

In response, various airlines have submitted a request to reopen flight routes. This includes Thai Airways International, Thai Smile Airways, Thai Lion Air and Thai Air Asia, which will connect Thailand with Guangzhou; meanwhile, Thai VietJet will operate services from Kunming and Nok Air will also bring holidaymakers in from Nanning.

The importance of the Chinese market to Thailand’s tourism sector is reflected in the latest forecasts from Thailand’s tourism council (TCT), which has set ambitious targets of 10 million foreign arrivals in the second half of this year. This would bring the total for 2022 up to around 16 million. The figures were confirmed by TCT president Chamnan Srisawat during a recent press conference for the Thailand Tourism Confidence Index 2022.

“We appreciate everything the government has done to help the tourism industry and businesses begin to recover,” explained Chamnan. “But winning this tourism war game while maintaining supply-side competitiveness will require special synergy; there is still work to be done, and those tasks cannot be completed by a single party,” he added.

With Chinese tourists set to return after a long absence due to pandemic-era restrictions, Thailand’s tourism landscape looks markedly different for Q3 and Q4 of 2022. The influx of new travellers from one of the Kingdom’s key source markets is expected to be a shot in the arm for Thai tourism in the months ahead.