Bank survey backs zero-dollar crackdown

BANGKOK, 2 February 2017: Most Chinese tourists travelling to Thailand agree with Thailand’s clampdown on zero-dollar tours reasoning it could raise the country’s tourism quality and encourage more travel options, according to Kasikorn Research Centre survey.

The bank’s survey showed that 83.4% of Chinese tourists interviewed in the survey supported the crackdown and thought it would benefit Thailand’s tourism in the long-run.

And another 15% of respondents, while agreeing with the crackdown, were not sure of the outcome.

inside no 3 Zero-dollar tours are a long standing scam operated by a small group of local travel companies in partnership with Chinese tour operators. They assemble tour packages that at a glance appear to be bargains. But once tourists pay for the basic tour, which appears to be below cost, the partners push their clients to buy side trips that visit attractions and shops selling gems and handicrafts where services and goods are marked up at least 100%.

Guides, tour operators and Chinese partners reap millions in commissions, all tax-free, while the travel supplier pays at least 35% to 40% in commissions to gain a visit from the highly controlled tour bus itineraries.

The Thai government cracked down on zero-dollar tours last September despite an outcry. It was not the first attempt to end zero-dollar tours. Over the past three decades, various attempts failed after just weeks due to a lack of commitment by authorities. This time the campaign has continued despite travel industry criticism mainly from those with a vested interest in keeping the scam tours alive and kicking.

The bank think-tank unit conducted its survey of 400 Chinese travellers asking them if they agreed with the crackdown and also to identify travel trends. The survey was undertaken, 1 to 15 January, at Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports, the country main gateway.

Of the 400 Chinese travellers surveyed, 83.4% of respondents agreed with the country’s crackdown on zero-dollar tours saying it would improve tourism and improve quality services.

15.4% of them also agreed with the policy, but were not sure of the outcome,. Of the 400 visitors surveyed only 1.2% disagreed with the crackdown.

In addition, 67.8% of those interviewed said the free visa concession for Chinese travellers contributed towards their decision to visit Thailand, while 32.2% said the measure did not have any impact on their decision.

A visa fee waiver was announced for 19 nationalities including Chinese tourists. The visa-on-arrival fee that was increased to THB2,000, 27 September, last year, reverted to the former fee of THB1,000. The offer will expire  28 February.

Responding to other survey questions, 98.0% of Chinese travellers interviewed said Thailand remained their top destination in Asia.

77.7% said it was their first trip to Thailand. 61.0% of the respondents were travelling with a tour group and 39.0% were independent travellers who booked through online channels or travel agencies.

22.3% of the respondents said they had visited the country more than two times.

As for trip satisfaction, 65.5% said they would return to Thailand. 29.0% said they were not sure if they would return, while 5.5% said they would definitely not visit the country again.

87.3% of those who plan to return said they would travel independently and would not travel with organised tour groups to Thailand, while just 12.7% said they would use tour operators in the future.

The centre noted: “Chinese trending in travel is moving fast to independent visits and this is a real challenge for tour operators, who must improve their marketing strategy and business plans or lose market share.”

The bank research tank said tour operators should focus more on Chinese family travel and incentive markets and sell travel programmes that are different and offer visitors an experience.

“They need to urgently diversify their tour offers and add activities matching them with the various travel segments,” the bank recommended.

Meanwhile, hotels  should target China’s  independent travellers  or shift to other emerging markets such as  Russia and ASEAN for their business, it added.

Thailand’s crackdown on zero-dollar tour decreased the number of Chinese travellers in the last quarter of 2016. Although the China market is showing signs of recovery, arrivals for the first half of this year will be slow  when compared to the boom recorded during the first half of last year.

The centre estimates 4.88 to 4.98 million Chinese tourists will visit Thailand during January to June this year down by a marginal 0.4%.

Kasikorn Research Centre is a subsidiary of Kasikorn Bank, which conducts tourism and business research mainly on Thailand’s economy including tourism with reliable recommendations and indicators on business prospects.


  1. without zero dollars how can the following estimation be possible?

    The centre estimates 4.88 to 4.98 million Chinese tourists will visit Thailand during January to June this year down by a marginal 0.4%.

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