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Thai Crackdown on Cheap Chinese Trips Cuts Visitors

Thai Crackdown on Cheap Chinese Trips Cuts VisitorsThai Crackdown on Cheap Chinese Trips Cuts Visitors

Chinese hotel bookings to Thailand for the Lunar New Year have tumbled, as a crackdown on cheap package tours hits visitor numbers from its biggest source of holidaymakers.

Tourism is increasingly important for Thailand, as its economic growth lags other Southeast Asian economies.

Between 2012 and 2016, the number of Chinese visitors trebled to nearly a third of all Thai tourists by numbers and revenue, Skift reported.

But a crackdown on “zero-dollar” package tours in September sent that into reverse with little sign of recovery ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday (Jan. 28 to Feb. 2).

The D Land Holiday Co. Ltd caters to Chinese tourists. Bookings are only 300 for the Lunar New Year compared to 800 last year, its owner said.

“It’s the crackdown,” Ruengdet Amorndetphakdee told Reuters.

Other hotel groups, including Central Plaza Hotel, said Chinese bookings had fallen. Tristar Floating Restaurant Co. Ltd. has six cruise ships for Chinese visitors, but now it operates only one.

Thailand’s tourism authority expects a 7.7% drop in Chinese tourists for the Lunar New Year this year, though offset by a 3.9% rise in tourists from elsewhere and it sees Chinese tourist numbers rising back during 2017.

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 had made Thailand uncompetitive for many Chinese visitors, tour operators say.

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

Chinese tourist numbers fell 30% in November from the previous year to the lowest monthly total in more than two years. At least part of that drop-off was due to a one-month mourning period following the Oct. 13 death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, tour operators say.

Thailand, nonetheless, forecasts that Chinese tourist numbers will recover to reach nine million by the end of 2017 to just top last year’s total.

By targeting wealthier Chinese travelers, revenue from China will increase over 14% this year to around 500 billion baht, according to Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Yuthasak Supasorn.

“It’s certainly a change, but Thai operators are able to adapt,” he said.

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Never, ever believe anything from the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

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