The first group of 195 Chinese tourists arrived in Chiang Mai province on Wednesday, marking the first planeload of visitors from China since travel restrictions were lifted last week.
The Juneyao Airlines flight, which landed at Chiang Mai Airport at 3:30 pm, was greeted by representatives from the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), the Tourism Council, and local tourism operators.
China was Thailand’s top overseas tourism market before the pandemic, with 11 million Chinese arrivals in 2019.
To capitalize on this renewed interest in travel, Chiang Mai Airport Director Wijit Kaewsaithiam said five Chinese airlines have opened routes to Chiang Mai. These include Juneyao Airlines, Spring Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Sichuan Airlines, and Air China.
Director of TAT’s Chiang Mai Office, Suladda Sarutilavan, noted that most Chinese tourists in Chiang Mai will be traveling independently in the first quarter of 2023 as tour companies have not yet started selling packages to Thailand. She predicts, however, that groups led by tour guides will begin pouring in from the second quarter.
The TAT estimates that Chiang Mai will see 600,000 visitors from China this year, or about one-third of the total number recorded in 2019.
To attract foreign tourists, Chiang Mai city and the TAT have planned a year-long calendar of festivals, starting with Chinese New Year on Sunday, followed by the Chiang Mai Flower Festival in February, Songkran in April, and Loy Krathong in November. (NNT)