BANGKOK, 13 January 2023: Thailand rolled out the red carpet for the first Chinese tourists arriving at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, just days after China lifted the last remaining travel restrictions.
They arrived on Xiaman Airlines’ flight MF833 from Xiamen on 9 January 2023, less than two weeks before China’s Lunar New Year holiday week gets underway on 22 January.
Disembarking at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, 286 passengers enjoyed a warm welcome from Anutin Charnvirakul, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, Minister of Tourism and Sports, Saksayam Chidchob, Minister of Transport and other top government officials including the Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Yuthasak Supasorn.
TAT deputy governor for domestic marketing, Thapanee Kiatphaibool, commented on her Facebook page that welcoming the first tour group would build confidence to “drive the tourism sector to achieve recovery from the damage of COVID-19 inflicted on the economy.”
It has undoubtedly fuelled optimism in the senior ranks of the TAT as officials are now suggesting the country is on track to host approximately 7 to 10 million Chinese tourists this year. In 2019 before Covid-19 locked down global tourism, Thailand welcomed just short of 12 million Chinese visitors.
If that is the case, then TAT’s deputy governor for international marketing in Asia and the South Pacific, Tanes Petsuwan, could be spot on when he says 2023 could close with between 20 to 25 million visits which would give the country around half of the 40 million visits recorded in 2019 before Covid closed down travel. TAT recorded 11.8 million visitor arrivals in 2022, mostly business and family travel, until late October, when leisure travel picked up from international markets.