After 3 years of confinement, the Chinese rediscover the joys of Thailand
Basking on the white sand beaches, tasting seafood and sticky rice mango, Chinese tourists are back in Thailand after almost 3 years without being able to travel abroad.
China having abandoned some of its anti-Covid health restrictions at the end of December which had prevented its nationals from traveling abroad since 2020, many countries including Thailand are seeing their first tourist market revive with visitors particularly delighted to rediscover the joys of vacation.
“It’s been three years since we left China“exclaims Kiki Hu, 28, a Chinese entrepreneur who chose to come to Krabi, on Thailand’s southwest coast, for the Lunar New Year weekend.”We can finally go out and come here for the holidays. I feel so happy and moved“.
As China celebrates the Lunar New Year, tourist hotspots across Asia braced for the return of travelers from China, a tourism market that was worth $255 billion in revenue a year before the pandemic.
For Yoyo Chen, a 32-year-old businesswoman from Yiwu in central China, returning to Thailand is like coming home.
“I came to enjoy the seafood. On a previous visit I had discovered the mango sticky rice which was delicious. Back in China, I always thought about mango sticky rice. I can’t wait to eat as much as to visit the beaches“, she said when she arrived.
“Obtaining visas is now more convenient. The tourism industry is more developed here, there are lots of fun activities and gastronomy, and Thai people are very hospitable“, she added.
The return of the Chinese is rather well received by professionals linked to tourism in Thailand, unlike other countries which have expressed fears regarding the Covid situation in China.
“We are happy that China is finally allowing its nationals to travel. At the moment we have received a few reservations until March“said Woranuch Maungtong, 44, director of the Tip-Top Destination transport company in Phuket, which provides daily speed boat trips to nearby islands.
However, it will take a few more months for the influx of travelers to return to pre-pandemic levels.
The Thai government, which hopes to reach at least five million Chinese arrivals over the whole of the year, does not expect more than 300,000 in the first quarter.
Chinese visitors represented in 2019 before the pandemic almost a third of the approximately 40 million foreign travelers to Thailand.