Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul warmly welcomed the Chinese tourists, and presented exquisite small gifts to them. (Photo/Courtesy of Xiamen Airlines)
A total of 269 Chinese passengers, travelling on a Xiamen Airlines flight, landed in Thailand on Monday, marking the first group of Chinese tourists arriving in the Southeast Asian nation after the adjustment of China's policy shift on COVID-19 shift.
Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul warmly welcomed the Chinese tourists at the airport, and presented exquisite small gifts to them.
The minister said that any new COVID-related measures adopted in Thailand will not discriminate against travelers from any country, including China.
As China continues to optimize and adjust its anti-epidemic policies and reopened its borders from Sunday, it is poised to rebuild confidence in the economic recovery in the whole Asia-Pacific region, especially the Southeast Asian countries in which tourism industry is a pillar sector.
Many Asian countries have expressed their eagerness to welcome the return of Chinese tourists, a major source of their international tourism revenues.
Flight bookings from Chinese mainland to Southeast Asian countries have increased, following China's virus policy adjustment .
Xiamen Airlines' international, intercontinental and regional round-trip flight pre-sales have increased significantly, according to a news release Xiamen Airlines sent to the Global Times on Monday.
Before the Spring Festival, the pre-sale passenger load of Xiamen Airlines' China-Thailand flights was nearing 90 percent, and flights on some specific dates were already sold out in advance.
The airline said it will further resume and increase the number of international, intercontinental and regional flights in order to meet the outbound demand.
Thailand is a popular tourist destination for Chinese sightseers. The return of Chinese tourists will certainly help bolster its tourism industry and related businesses such as accommodation, transportation, food and beverages.
Huang Bin, a China expert with the Thai think tank Kasikorn Research Center, told the Global Times on Monday that, due to the agenda for China to fully open its tour travel services, the center expects 1 million Chinese passengers to the country this year, which is a sharp rise from only 260,000 arrivals seen in 2022.
The reopening of China will likely help uplift Thailand's 2023 GDP by 0.6 percentage points, Huang said, noting that tourism as a pillar industry for Thailand contributes to about 10 percent of its GDP.
The Thai government expects about 300,000 Chinese tourists to visit Thailand in the first three months of this year. It has also set a target of approximately 5 million Chinese tourist arrivals in 2023, equivalent to 45 percent of the arrivals seen in 2019.