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Asia Minute: Thailand is sorely missing its Chinese visitors

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Thailand’s tourism industry has bounced off its lows, but it’s still collectively waiting for visitors from its most important market: China.

Before the pandemic, the flow of Chinese people coming to Thailand kept setting records — year after year.

In 2012, nearly 3 million Chinese traveled to Thailand. By 2019, the figure had nearly quadrupled to some 11 million.

During that peak year, China accounted for more than a quarter of Thailand’s international tourism arrivals — and even more of its tourism revenue.

But then came the virus — and lockdowns — followed by some small-scale experimental travel programs.

And then in May, China’s central government began to restrict “unnecessary” international travel by its citizens — trying to reduce potential exposure to the virus overseas.

Last week, the Tourism Authority of Thailand revised its expectations for this year and next.

The government is forecasting 10 million international tourists by the end of this year — and modest growth next year.

The governor of the tourism authority says those numbers don’t include any visitors from China for this year or next year — because “there are too many uncertainties regarding the border policies.”

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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