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Chinese "zero-dollar" tours may be great for Thailand's visitation numbers, but the original problems remain. Tourists get treated poorly, overtourism swells, and much of the money flows back into China instead of the Thai economy.

Tourism is the gift that keeps on giving in Thailand, thanks especially to China.

Visitors from the world’s most-populous nation surged to a record 1.2 million in February, swelled by the Lunar New Year holiday period, Tourism Ministry data released Wednesday in Bangkok showed. The kingdom expects 38 million tourists overall this year, including more than 10 million from China.

Thailand’s relationship with Chinese tourists has sometimes been rocky. Visitor numbers collapsed toward the end of 2016, when the Thai administration cracked down on operators bringing in large groups from China on cut-price holidays. Those curbs were eventually eased and numbers have since rocketed.

Tourism is worth about a fifth of the Thai economy and has been an important growth driver for the military government that took power almost four years ago. But the boom is clogging infrastructure and threatens to take a bigger environmental cost on the beaches attracting so many visitors.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Supunnabul Suwannakij from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

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Tags: Chinese travelers, group travel, overtourism, thailand

Photo credit: Discover Thailand 2015 tourism festival in Bangkok on January 17, 2015. Thailand is seeing an uptick in Chinese visitors. drburtoni / Flickr

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