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China’s crackdown, while difficult for some tour companies and destinations, will have the upside of cracking down on the most predatory of operators.
Beijing’s new tourism law clamping down on substandard outbound tour packages is causing a dent in arrivals on charter flights from China.
Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport, where most Chinese travellers on tour packages arrive in the Land of Smiles, has seen a 30% drop in this segment in recent weeks.
The drop is significant, given that up to 85% of all international arrivals at Don Mueang are from China.
Chaturongkapon Sodmanee, Don Mueang airport’s general manager, singled out the tougher tourism law as the sole factor for the drop in Chinese passenger traffic.
Beijing began to toughen regulations three months ago to avoid scams targeting Chinese tourists.
“Zero-dollar tours” offer very cheap package deals to Thailand, where tourists are pressured to buy overpriced goods and services.
Mr Chaturongkapon said most current Chinese tour packages were organised in advance of the political stand-off in Bangkok, so it is unlikely the protests are the cause of the plunge in Chinese arrivals.
He expects Chinese arrivals at Don Mueang to rebound after next month, as the Chinese tourism law will become the norm and accepted by Chinese tourists.
In addition, the highly touted plan to offer 15-day visa-free stays to Chinese tourists should increase their numbers, said Mr Chaturongkapon.
Almost 3 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand last year, the most from any nation, and 4 million are expected this year.
In the first eight months of this year, Chinese arrivals here jumped 88% year-on-year to 3.22 million, said the Tourism and Sports Ministry.
Overall arrivals at Don Mueang, mostly on low-cost carriers, have continued to grow in recent weeks since the political demonstrations in the Thai capital began to take shape.
Total arrivals at Don Mueang increased by 1% year-on-year over the period, with airlines continuing to maintain their heightened capacities for the high season, in accordance with their flight slot allocations, said Mr Chaturongkapon.
The launch at Don Mueang last week of Thai Lion Air, the latest no-frills carrier, should help to increase traffic with its aggressive pricing strategy, said Mr Chaturongkapon.
Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT), the state-controlled firm that operates Thailand’s six major airports, said based on airlines’ flight slot applications, it envisages passengers passing through Don Mueang airport from Dec 27-Jan 2 to increase by 63.7% year-on-year to 71,000 passengers a day, with aircraft take-offs and landings growing by 14.3% to 410.