For many tourist destinations, the return of China — the world's largest outbound travel market — a huge boost to their economy after the problems of the last three years. In 2019, 155 million international trips were organized from the Middle Kingdom.
Thailand, for example, received 11 million Chinese travelers in 2019, which is more than a quarter of the total number of arrivals.
How will China return to the “Land of Smiles”? Will there be an immediate influx of tourists, or will the recovery be smooth? What are the key factors that can make a difference?
Thai experts note that the number of inquiries and bookings of accommodation in Thailand has been steadily increasing, mainly from independent travelers through online channels. After the announcement of the opening of China's borders, hoteliers saw a 70 percent increase in inquiries. However, a number of factors, such as a limited number of flights, airport control, delays in applying for passports, etc., negatively affect the growth of the tourist flow.
Major hotel groups note that they have begun receiving requests for individual and group bookings in major cities such as Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, Koh Samui and Chiang Mai. At the same time, the priority period — Chinese New Year, for the coming dates, most of the objects in Phuket are already full.
Key question — air Transport. Until 2020, Chinese travelers could choose from 28 different airlines. They served several routes between Thailand and China, flew to 44 airports and offered a total of 17 million seats. However, during the pandemic, all indicators have practically zeroed out, and airlines are just beginning to restore flight schedules.
In early January, Spring Airlines announced that it would resume flights from Shanghai to Phuket and from Guangzhou to Chiang Mai, as well as increase the frequency of flights from Shanghai to Bangkok. Juneyao Air will also launch flights between Shanghai and Chiang Mai.
Thai airlines are waiting for the Chinese authorities to approve additional flights, so they will not be able to get off to a fast start either. That being said, Thailand's international airports have high capacity in terms of route and airport control and are waiting for airlines to add more direct or connecting flights.
However, once these logistical challenges are overcome, Thailand is likely to become one of the main beneficiaries of the great Chinese discovery.
According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, approximately 11.8 million tourists arrived in Thailand in 2022, only about a quarter of the figure in 2019 — 39.8 million. And the opening of China's borders should ensure a significant increase in tourist traffic in the very near future.
Despite the many risks associated with inflation, rising energy and commodity prices, which could potentially lead to an economic downturn in the first half of the year, the Thais look to the future with a positive attitude. A number of hotels have already outperformed their pre-crisis 2019 performance and the upward trend will continue in the first quarter of 2023.