Yesterday (Jan 18) saw the first direct flights from the Chinese mainland touch down in Phuket in almost three years as Spring Airlines Flight 9C8667 and Juneyao Air Flight HO1321, both direct from Shanghai, landed at Phuket International Airport.
Three China Airlines’ flights via Bangkok are scheduled to arrive today, with flights from China Eastern Airlines and Sichuan Airlines scheduled to land tomorrow. No official figures were made available at time of press in relation to how many passengers would be aboard the flights.
The resumption of direct flights from mainland China marks the return of the largest source market by volume before the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019 there were 17,695,489 arrivals from China entering Thailand, 3,118,901 of which came to Phuket.
Yuthasak Supasorn, the Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, has stated he predicts that there will be about 300,000 Chinese tourists arriving in Thailand during the first quarter of 2023, with around 17% heading to Phuket.
“Phuket is one of the most popular destinations for Chinese people to travel to, and we are ready in terms of the number of rooms, variety of tourism products and services, department stores and spas, which all meet the needs of Chinese tourists,” Tourism Authority of Thailand Phuket office (TAT Phuket) Director Nanthasiri Ronnasiri said yesterday.
“In addition, Chinese people have a desire to travel abroad due to travel restrictions during the COVID epidemic over the past two years [sic],” she said.
“During that time, the five TAT offices in China ‒ in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Kunming and Hong Kong ‒ have continued their marketing efforts to make Thailand a ‘Top of Mind’ destination for Chinese tourists.
“This first group of tourists who have arrived have different travel behavior than before. They mostly arriving on self-managed travel, and is a group of middle- to upper-level income brackets,” Ms Nanthasiri concluded.
Airports of Thailand Co., Ltd. (AOTGA), which provides ground services at Phuket International Airport, has confirmed it is fully prepared to provide comprehensive services to cope with the additional flights, more of which are expected to be scheduled in due course as China slowly but surely begins to travel again.