Basing its estimates on flights and booking trends, February 15-21, the ministry said 888,472 foreigners would visit the country of which 304,192 would be Chinese tourists, up by around 20% compared with the Chinese New Year week in 2017.
During the week Feb 15-21, tourism receipts on the estimated 888,472 foreign tourist visits could reach around B48.452 billion. Of that total, 304,192 Chinese visitors should generate earnings of B15.978bn.
During the Chinese New Year holiday this year, 20,677 flights will serve routes between China and Thailand, an increase of 6% over last year’s festive season.
The increase is driven by new flights that originate in second-tier cities in China and fly package tour groups to secondary cities in Thailand.
Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat says he wants to reduce the concentration of tourists visiting popular destinations such as Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket.
The Phuket News notes that the new strategy might in part explain why the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has Phuket as the only destination in the country to begin its official Chinese New Year celebrations five days after the first day the Chinese Lunar New Year, Feb 16 – and starting from Feb 21 instead. (See TAT report here.)
Regardless, around 90% of all Chinese tourists continue to travel to Bangkok, Chonburi (Pattaya), Phuket and Chiang Mai, with just 10% visiting secondary destinations such as Chiang Rai, and Samui.
In preparation for the huge influx of tourists, government departments including the Immigration Bureau have recruited volunteers to provide information to Chinese travellers at airports including interpreters to process visas-on-arrival, VAT refunds, while security has been beefed up with patrols and checks on water transport.
The visa-on-arrival counters at airports will be crowded this week with long-delays for thousands of Chinese tourists, who did not gain a visa before they left home.
There have been calls to replace the cumbersome visa-on-arrival with a practical online e-visa, prepaid by a credit card. Myanmar has the most practical and user-friendly online visa service of all the Asean neighbours, while Thailand has lagged behind.
An e-visa would cut costs, be more user friendly, still give immigration officials the opportunity to check blacklists and reduce queues and congestion at airports.
– Don Ross, Managing Editor of TTR Weekly.
Read original story here.