Thailand aimed for 3.4-3.5 million Chinese tourists this year but expects to fall short despite efforts like a visa-free program.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) reports around 3.01 million Chinese visitors so far. Before the pandemic, China was a major market, contributing 11 million visitors in 2019, comprising over a quarter of total arrivals that year.
Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, TAT’s deputy governor for international marketing in Asia and South Pacific, expressed concerns about China’s slowing economy impacting tourism spending.
He highlighted a recent Bangkok mall shooting as a factor affecting tourist confidence. TAT initially anticipated 4-4.4 million Chinese tourists for the year, later revised from the government’s original goal of 5 million.
Chattan mentioned that foreign tourist arrivals totaled around 23.88 million this year.
The government aims for 28 million arrivals, contrasting with nearly 40 million pre-pandemic arrivals in 2019, generating 1.91 trillion baht ($54.37 billion) in spending.
Singapore Is the Top Destination of Chinese Tourists
According to a survey by Singapore-based digital marketing firm China Trading Desk, Singapore has overtaken Thailand as the top choice for Chinese tourists traveling abroad.
In a recent quarterly travel sentiment survey of over 10,000 Chinese residents, 17.5% expressed intentions to travel to Singapore, making it the top choice. Europe followed at 14.3%, and South Korea at 11.4% among the preferred destinations for upcoming international travel plans.
In the survey, Malaysia ranks as the fourth most preferred destination among Chinese tourists, while Australia follows suit. Thailand, previously the top choice, dropped to sixth place, with only 10% of respondents considering it for future travel plans.
Vietnam, despite having previously relied on China as its primary source of tourists in 2019, did not feature in the recent survey list. However, in the first ten months of the current year, Vietnam welcomed over 1.3 million Chinese tourists, representing 30% of pre-pandemic levels. The survey attributes Thailand’s decreased popularity among Chinese tourists to portrayals by Chinese media outlets depicting Southeast Asia as an unsafe destination.
Thailand’s allure for Chinese tourists is waning, notably after a shooting at Bangkok’s Siam Paragon mall that claimed the lives of a Chinese national and another foreigner.
The survey highlighted Chinese tourists’ reluctance to visit Japan due to concerns about the Fukushima nuclear plant’s water release into the ocean starting in August.
Singapore, renowned for its stringent gun control and low crime rate, is considered among the safest destinations globally. Capitalizing on shifts in Chinese travel sentiments, Singapore has seen an increase in Chinese tourists, now ranking as the second largest market for the country after Indonesia, as reported by the Singapore Tourism Board.