Thailand airport operator expects 8 million Chinese visitors this year

BANGKOK: State-owned Airports of Thailand (AOT) expects 8 million Chinese tourists arrivals for 2024, it president said on Thursday (Feb 1), helped by visa waiver programme.

The announcement comes after the two countries mutually waived visa entry requirements for their nationals effective in March. Thailand removed visa requirements for Chinese late last year.

Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy is betting on revival of tourism, particularly from it’s former top source market of China.

Despite the easing of rules for Chinese visitors, Thailand saw only 3.5 million Chinese arrivals from a total of 28 million foreign tourists last year. Tourism revenue in 2023 was 1.2 trillion baht (US$33.86 billion).

That compared with a record year in pre-pandemic 2019 when Thailand welcomed nearly 40 million arrivals who spent 1.91 trillion baht (US$53.89 billion). Of those, 11 million were from China.

AOT, who operates six airports in Thailand including the main Suvarnabhumi gateway, said it was prepared for the sharp increase in flights and passengers, AOT President Kerati Kijmanawat said in a statement.

For the Lunar Near Year holidays, he was expecting a 200 per cent increase of flights and said entry processes would be smooth.

For the full year, the government is expecting 34 million foreign arrivals.

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