Thai bud­get tour crack­down causes drop in Chi­nese vis­i­tors

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By REUTERS

Chi­nese ho­tel book­ings to Thai­land for Spring Fes­ti­val have tum­bled as a crack­down on cheap pack­age tours hits vis­i­tor num­bers from its big­gest source of va­ca­tion­ers.

Tourism is in­creas­ingly im­por­tant for Thai­land given that its eco­nomic growth lags be­hind other South­east Asian economies. Be­tween 2012 and 2016, the num­ber of Chi­nese vis­i­tors tripled to nearly a third of all Thai­land's tourists by num­bers and rev­enue.

But a crack­down on “zero dol­lar” all-in­clu­sive pack­age tours in Septem­ber sent that into re­verse with lit­tle sign of re­cov­ery ahead of the Spring Fes­ti­val hol­i­day sea­son, Jan 27 to Feb 2.

D Land Hol­i­day Co, which caters to Chi­nese tourists, has only 300 book­ings for the hol­i­day com­pared with 800 last year, its owner said.

“It’s the crack­down,” Ruengdet Amorn­det­phakdee said.

Other com­pa­nies, such as Cen­tral Plaza Ho­tel PCL, said Chi­nese book­ings had fallen. Tris­tar Float­ing Restau­rant Co has six cruise ships for Chi­nese vis­i­tors, but is op­er­at­ing only one.

Thai­land’s tourism au­thor­ity ex­pects a 7.7 per­cent drop in Chi­nese tourists dur­ing the Spring Fes­ti­val hol­i­day, though it ex­pects it to be at least par­tially off­set by a 3.9 per­cent rise in tourists from else­where.

Zero dol­lar tourists pay ev­ery­thing up­front.

Oper­a­tors cut any cost they can, while tourists are some­times ca­joled into buy­ing over­priced sou­venirs so the com­pany earns a com­mis­sion. Those are the prac­tices Thai­land wants to stop.

But the gov­ern­ment's in­sis­tence on a min­i­mum 1,000 baht ($28) per night charge for pack­age tourists made Thai­land un­com­pet­i­tive for many Chi­nese vis­i­tors, tour oper­a­tors say.

“We weren’t pre­pared for this,” said Chana­pan Kaewk-lachaiyawuth, sec­re­tary-general of Thai-Chi­nese Tourism Al­liance As­so­ci­a­tion.

Chi­nese tourist num­bers fell by 30 per­cent in Novem­ber from the year be­fore to the low­est monthly to­tal in more than two years.

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