Chinese tourists are returning to Thailand for the first time since China lifted its draconian travel restrictions and reopened its borders, visiting white-sand beaches and enjoying mango sticky rice and prawns.
With China celebrating the Lunar New Year, Asia’s tourism hubs have been bracing for the return of Chinese tourists, who spent US$255 billion worldwide prior to the outbreak. Countries ranging from Thailand to Japan have previously relied on China as their primary source of international visitors.
In December, Beijing unexpectedly lifted the world’s second-largest economy’s tough pandemic restrictions.
Yoyo Chen, a 32-year-old company entrepreneur from Yiwu in central China, said returning to Thailand felt like coming home.
Businesses hailed China’s return, despite concerns about a massive increase in COVID infections in China when Beijing dropped its zero-COVID policy.
The reopening of China boosts optimism for the return of Chinese visitors, who made up roughly a third of Thailand’s 40 million foreign tourist arrivals prior to the epidemic.
The Thai government anticipates at least five million Chinese tourists this year, with 300,000 arriving in the first quarter.