China’s new policy of regulating outbound zero-dollar tours will benefit the Thai tourism industry in the long term, as it will help to screen tourist quality, say Thai tourism operators.
But the regulation, which started Tuesday, will see a short-term effect, with Chinese tourist arrivals probably declining.
Zero-dollar tours refer to cheap tour packages in which Chinese pay only a small amount of money to tour agents.
But when they are in Thailand, the tourists are pressured into buying overpriced products and accommodation or optional programmes they had not planned on joining.
Under the new Chinese regulation, Thai tour operators and their Chinese counterparts must stipulate the exact number of Chinese tourists travelling to the country.
All tour programme details and all expenses for Chinese tourists must be explicitly stated, and the tour packages can be paid for only in China.
Tour operators who violate the regulation are subject to a 300,000-yuan fine, or face licence revocation.
The move is a bid by the Chinese government to crack down on zero-dollar tour problems that have been occurring in both countries for a long time.
Kasien Wattanachaowisut, president of the Thai-Chinese Tourism Alliance Association (TCTA), said strict regulation of zero-dollar tours will increase the price of package tours and services for Chinese tourists by a wide range of 40-100% . In the first three months of enforcement of the new regulation, Chinese tourist arrivals in Thailand are expected to be halved.
Destinations that have only charter flights from China will see arrivals sink by 80%. .
”But the situation should ease early next year,” said Mr Kasien.
The TAT now expects only 3.8 million Chinese tourists this year, down from its earlier projection of 4.2 million.
But revenue from these tourists will increase by 50% from last year, to 150 billion baht.
During China’s Golden Week from Oct 1-7, Chinese tourists are still visiting Thailand as usual due to advance bookings.
Tourism and Sports Minister Somsak Pureesrisak said China’s new zero-dollar tour policy may help to reduce crime against tourists, which has been on the rise for the past three years.