Tourism operators and airlines are seeing positive signs from the Chinese market as the country becomes more active in promoting tourism and loosening flight restrictions for Thai carriers.
Charoen Wangananont, president of the Thai Travel Agents Association, said even though there are no signs of the country fully reopening, tourism-related authorities remain active with promotions, including China Tourism and Culture Weeks, scheduled to be held in Bangkok from Sept 8.
He said the marketing is the first activity in two years, indicating China is keen to promote tourism exchanges with Thailand, but is dependent on an appropriate timeline as the country is maintaining its zero-Covid policy.
Mr Charoen said it was possible southern China will be selected as the first area to reopen with few to no restrictions, along with Hong Kong and Macau, which have seen tourism organisations become more active in promoting their destinations to travellers.
On Sept 8 the Hong Kong Tourism Board is expected to launch a new marketing campaign for the first time in two years as it prepares to welcome tourists.
He said if Hong Kong and Macau reopen for tourism in the fourth quarter, they will exempt visitors from the current mandatory quarantine.
“At the moment, the countries that used to attract 1 million Thai tourists have started to actively promote their destinations despite border controls as they don’t want to miss the boat when they fully reopen in the upcoming high season,” said Mr Charoen.
Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, said the organisation held a meeting with Taiwan’s transport minister last week and was told that tourism exchanges with Thailand might resume by October or November.
However, the policy from mainland China remains unclear as there is only speculation about the possible areas that might be reopened first, including southern cities like Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai. The timeline is expected to be before or around Chinese New Year in January.
Nuntaporn Komonsittivate, head of commercial operations at Thai Lion Air, said the airline resumed flights to China with a very limited quota from July, and is gradually adding new routes in August and September.
She said the airline started with Guangzhou in July, and will add Changsha in September. Most of the flights to Chinese cities had more outbound passengers leaving the country, mainly businessmen and students, than inbound flights, said Ms Nuntaporn.
Thai AirAsia reported it had only two flights per month to Chongqing and Guangzhou in August as eight Thai airlines had to share limited air traffic rights.
However, as the Civil Aviation Administration of China prepares to increase quotas for Thai carriers to 15 flights per week, from only three flights at the moment, the airlines expect to provide more services to the mainland in the near future.