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Hotels welcome back Chinese

Hotels are eager to welcome Chinese guests as a survey confirmed tourists are ready to return, since the yuan has appreciated against the baht and airlines are restarting their activities.

The China Thailand Travel Sentiment Survey 2020 conducted in mid-April by C9 Hotelworks and DAC China Digital Services revealed 53% of Chinese tourists would like to travel this year, targeting August, October and December in particular.

The preference to travel in Thailand was high at 71%, with Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai ranked the top three destinations, followed by Koh Samui and Pattaya.

Bill Barnett, managing director of C9 Hotelworks, said Chinese tourists totalled almost 11 million last year, more than one-fourth of Thailand’s overall 39.8 million international arrivals.

He said the strength of the yuan, which was weaker in the third and fourth quarters last year because of the economic slowdown and trade war, means Chinese tourists can spend more in Thailand.

The travel budget for 50% of those surveyed was US$2,100 per person, or about 68,000 baht.

Health concerns when boarding an airplane will rule the market sentiment which make short-haul destination a key mover in Asia’s travel recovery.

Meanwhile, although global airlines face the problem of financial liquidity, carriers in China may revive first as the resumption of domestic air travel in the second quarter is bolstering low-cost airlines’ cash flow.

The survey found 83% of Chinese tourists tend to shift to independent mode, compared to traditional group tours which account for only 17%.

Mr Barnett said this survey can be a forecasting tool for the hotel industry that would like to boost this market again with the right timing and tools.

The preferred booking channels for Chinese travellers to Thailand are Ctrip (61%), Fliggy (16%), hotel websites (9%), (5%) and WeChat (5%).

He pointed out that airline activities will be a quick indicator of how tourism has recovered.

The activities shown on Flightradar24 clearly reflects how the aviation business in China has returned to the air.

“We expect Thailand’s reopening trajectory to initially be dominated by the domestic storyline but move quickly into inter-regional travel punctuated by the outbound China sector who are ready and willing to visit the country,” said Mr Barnett.

The survey was based on over 1,000 pre-qualified travellers in first-tier cities in China.

Vorasit Pongkumpunt, group vice-president of Nora Resorts and Hotels Group, said 90% of income in Koh Samui depends on the tourism industry.

Operators are ready to welcome Chinese and every nationality, particularly after struggling with the economic fallout from the pandemic.

Mr Vorasit, who is also president of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui, said Bangkok Airways will resume flights on June 1, but operators are urging the carrier to start its services once the virus in the province is completely contained, starting with Bangkok-Koh Samui.

Operators are in talks with the airline, which is also the owner of Samui airport, lowering the landing fee for chartered flights from three cities in the mainland — Xi’an, Chengdu and Chongqing — before October.

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