One third of all tourists here could be Chinese
CHINESE tourists continue to flood into Thailand, with January and February registering huge increases of 45% and 22% respectively over last year’s figures, according to the Immigration Bureau.
In January this year, Chinese visitors numbered 814,593 (compared to 560,360 in the same month in 2015), while February increased to 958,204 (from 780,516).
If this amazing surge is sustained over the next 10 months, the total number of Chinese coming here this year could be as high as 10.5 million, greatly exceeding last year’s record total of 7.9 million, making China by far Thailand’s biggest tourist market.
In 2015, Thailand welcomed almost 30 million visitors, five million more than in 2014.
Malaysia is the country’s second biggest market, with some two million visitors. Other important sources include Japan, India, Korea, Singapore, Russia, UK, Australia and Germany.
But it is the rise of China that is truly astonishing. As recently as 2005, a mere 776,792 of its citizens visited Thailand. By 2012, this figure had increased to 2.7 million visitors, putting it ahead of all other nationalities.
A year later, that number had almost doubled, but the biggest jump to date was in 2015 when 7.9 million Chinese came to Thailand. Today, Thailand’s tourism industry is bracing itself for yet another increase this year.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has reported that Chinese visitors spent a whopping 697.5 billion baht during the first half of 2015, making it easily the country’s biggest source of tourism revenue.
In fact, all the major markets registered visitor expenditure, with the sole exception of Russia which was down by more than 50% over the previous year.
China’s dominant position is attracting both praise and criticism. TAT says it is playing a major role in bolstering the Thai economy, supporting jobs and income distribution nationwide, while others say their huge presence in Thailand may deter visitors from other countries. It is also suggested that some of the package holidays used by Chinese tourists yield only a small percentage to the host country.