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First Wave of Chinese


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Thailand’s tourist industry on Tuesday took a modest step toward reviving its coronavirus-battered fortunes by welcoming 39 visitors who flew in from Shanghai, the first such arrivals since regular travelers were banned almost seven months ago.

The visitors who arrived at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport are pioneers in a "Special Tourist Visa" program devised by Thai authorities to restore step by step a sector of the economy that welcomed almost 40 million foreign visitors last year and by some estimates accounts for more than 10% of the country’s GDP.

Bringing in tourists from China was a natural choice. Thailand was one of the top overseas destinations for Chinese tourists in 2019, when they accounted for by far the largest number of visitors to Thailand by nationality. Just as crucial is China’s ability to keep new coronavirus infections in check, a sharp contrast to most other parts of the globe that send visitors to Thailand.

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The report that outbound Chinese group tours will remain banned by the Chinese Ministry of Culture, due to “concerns around the Covid-19 Coronavirus worldwide”, is true.

But the Chinese have NOT been given special concessions. They are NOT the only people allowed to apply for Thailand’s STV. They are NOT all businessmen coming up to “google up” bargain businesses in Thailand. The arrival of the first Chinese travellers had NOTHING to do with the lifting of the State of Emergency in Bangkok (there was any array of other comments and conspiracy theories offered following the BKK Post article).

To clarify, only Chinese operated and owned tour companies remain banned from organising tour group travel. Individual travellers, tourists or privately organised “groups” by citizens or companies and organisations from other countries are allowed to depart China under the current arrangements.

There is no blanket ban on departure for Chinese citizens, although there are restrictions. During 2019, most Chinese arrivals were FIT (free and independent travellers), not on tour groups. 27% of all international arrivals in 2019 were from China.

Thai officials maintain that the Chinese travellers and tourists are being tested, quarantined and tracked (via and app) whilst they are in Thailand and that they are being given no special dispensations. Most have organised their own bookings, including ASQ (quarantine) and then around the country. Some have booked onward travel to Phuket and Chiang Mai following their 14 day quarantine in Bangkok.

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