Chartered flights by Chinese tourists during the Songkran festival are expected to be halved from around 80 last year, according to the Thai-Chinese Tourism Alliance Association.
"Chinese tourists are not confident toward Thai politics after red-clad demonstrators came out to protest many times and with the ongoing phone-ins by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra," said president Sidivachr Cheewarattanaporn.Although the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is offering a prize of 100,000 baht to tour companies that can successfully bring in Chinese tourists on chartered flights during the Songkran and May Day festivals, this may be not enough to attract them because they are still concerned about political problems.
Mr Sidivachr said the association expected around 40 chartered flights would fly to Thailand for the coming festivals, compared to 80 last year.
China is a key market being counted on to revive Thai tourism as the United States and European markets are very weak. Unfortunately, Thailand is facing both local political uncertainties and the global economic crisis.
To renew the confidence of Chinese tourists, Mr Sidivachr said, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva should go to China not only to promote tourism but also investment. The association and some tour operators plan to organise a roadshow in China sometime in May.
Mr Sidivachr said the association expected total Chinese tourist arrivals to Thailand would be 800,000 this year, up from 700,000 last year. But during Chinese New Year, the number of Chinese tourists totalled 50,000, compared with 150,000 to 200,000 in normal times, he noted.
"It's not easy to enter the Chinese market because there is high competition right now. Our package prices are around 3,000 to 4,000 yuan (15,750 to 21,000 baht), which are equal to tour package prices to Japan. So, most Chinese are shifting to travel to Japan," he said.
The association suggested that local tour operators promote Thailand in emerging affluent Chinese cities with high potential such as Nanjing and other industrial cities.
However, Mr Sidivachr hopes that Chinese inbound tourism will gradually pick up in the second half of this year after economic problems ease as many analysts expect and the confidence of Chinese tourists is restored.