InfoQuest (January 16, 2019) -- Kasikorn Research Center (KResearch) expects an encouraging increase in the number of Thailand-bound Chinese tourists during the Spring Festival from January 24 to 30, 2020. According to estimates, the number of Chinese tourists to Thailand during the holiday will grow by 2.7 percent to 365,500, almost level with that of last year during the same period. Continuous marketing effort of the public and private sectors is a main reason, and the waiving of visa-on-arrival fee is also a contributing factor. A Ctrip survey shows that Chinese tourists still consider Thailand as their preferred destination for travel during the Spring Festival.
But many factors still need to be closely watched for how the number of Thailand-bound Chinese tourists will change in the next stage of 2020. For example, the legacy of economic slowdown in China continues to have implications this year over some tourist groups, adding more difficulty to already difficult market expansion endeavor of Thai travel operators; competition from Chinese domestic and international travel operators alike makes the choice of tourist destinations for Chinese tourists more diversified; the fluctuating exchange rate between Thai baht and RMB and the appreciation of Thai baht against other foreign currencies may exert an impact on price-aware tourists.
New challenges that must be monitored include pneumonia caused by coronaviruses (COV), a new type of virus occurring in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. This virus was found in a Chinese tourist who came to Thailand for travel before, and allied government agencies took immediate measures to minimize the possible impact.
In addition, tensions in the Middle East and high, volatile oil prices may have a negative impact on the Chinese economy and the sentiment of Chinese tourists; natural disasters and climate change factors in China and beyond may also affect travel.
KResearch holds that the impact of these risks is limited, and even some may have a positive effect on the Thai tourism industry. For example, as Chinese economy is decelerating, some Chinese tourists may change their travel destinations, choosing closer ones to meet the budget; turbulence will make Chinese tourists remove Middle East from their travel destination list; allied governments and agencies attach great importance to tracking and monitoring pneumonia caused by coronaviruses (COV).
In 2020, the number of Chinese tourists going to Thailand is estimated to be about 11.1 to 11.3 million, an increase of about 1.6 percent to 3.5 percent, slightly slower than that of 2019 (The effect of extending the waiving of visa-on-arrival fee has been taken into account). In addition to the risks mentioned above, the fact that Chinese tourist market has a large base must also take the blame for the slower-than-before growth rate of Thailand-bound Chinese tourists.
Chinese tourists are anticipated to spend 550-560 billion Thai baht in Thailand this year, an increase of about 1.1 percent to 2.8 percent, slower than that of 2019. By consumption category, Chinese tourists will spend more in food and beverage, in part because Thai governments are working to promote food tourism, including Street Food and local cuisine.
The habit of Chinese tourists of searching for famous local restaurants through smart phones is also one reason. In the meanwhile, hotel and accommodation spending will decrease, partly due to more and more choices available for Chinese tourists in terms of price and quality amid fiercer competition in hotel and accommodation industry.
The competition is intensifying in current business world; the behavior of Chinese and other foreign tourists is changing rapidly, and their demand is more complex and diverse, reflected in the growing demand for free and independent travel (FIT). Therefore, it is necessary and inevitable for travel operators to keep their business operation models in line with changing situation as sticking to the old rut won't work. To this end, travel operators must adjust their travel packages to meet the trends and needs of Chinese tourists falling in different age brackets and groups, especially for family travels covering multiple age brackets.
Specific measures are as follows: Providing flexible products and services such as local cultural and art tours, nature tours, food tours, and sports and adventure tours to satisfy the needs and budgets of different tourist groups; registering at channels, platforms and applications popular among Chinese tourists for tourist destination searching; leveraging QR Code and AR technology to link video clips for information promotion; supporting payment systems frequently used by Chinese tourists. This is also a thing travel operators must consider in exploring FIT tourist markets, so as to extend accesses to reach out Chinese tourists and provide maximum convenience for them.
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