The newly established Thai government is under pressure to collaborate with Beijing prior to launching a visa-free program for Chinese tourists.
The recently released Chinese film portraying scammer networks and a constant viewpoint of Thailand being a gateway for human trafficking is influencing the mood towards tourism.
The Chinese thriller movie “No More Bets” showcases individuals getting swindled into collaborating with a scammer network in the Southeast Asian region.
The movie garnered a revenue of US$505 million in its initial five weeks, topping China’s box office chart in August.
Surawat Akaraworamat, the vice-president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, noted that the movie has exacerbated the already fragile Chinese sentiment towards traveling to Southeast Asia.
This negative perception has been present since March, following an incident where Chinese visitors in Thailand were kidnapped and taken to a neighboring country.
In recent months, worries have intensified as numerous online content creators in China seized upon this topic, fueling speculation about the safety of travelling in Thailand.
Mr Surawat pointed out that implementing a visa-free strategy alone might not revitalize the industry, as other nations are gearing up to propose comparable incentives to attract Chinese tourists.
South Korea revealed its intentions this week to eliminate visa charges for Chinese travellers.
He mentioned that although travel agencies in China are optimistic about Thailand’s prospective visa policy, the primary factor deterring Chinese tourists from reserving trips to Thailand is the prevailing concern regarding safety.
Mr Surawat noted that the visa-free initiative may not yield the anticipated advantage if adverse views concerning Thailand persist within China.
He stated that this is a sensitive issue that the Thai government cannot address alone, necessitating assistance from its Chinese counterpart to persuade its citizens.
He emphasized that Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin should contemplate arranging an official visit to China at the earliest opportunity to bolster economic relations and foster investment partnerships.
Additionally, this visit would serve as an excellent opportunity to assure the Chinese government of Thailand’s safety measures and stability.
The Royal Thai Police have intensified their efforts against scammer networks in recent months, yet these endeavours may prove futile if not properly conveyed to potential tourists, Mr Surawat stated.
Chuwit Sirivejkul, the regional marketing director for East Asia at the Tourism Authority of Thailand, highlighted that the principal reason for the slow growth in the Chinese market seems to be the waning trust in the safety of travellers.
This stands in contrast to the visa application process, which has been gradually improving over time.
He proposed that the Thai government should publicize a declaration to reassure tourists concerning safety measures, with the objective of restoring their trust.
Having welcomed 2.2 million Chinese visitors until “Sept 3”, Thailand now has a limited timeframe of four months to attract a further 2.8 million tourists to meet its 2023 goal of hosting 5 million visitors.