Officially it is being reported that Chinese visitors to Thailand are down 8.5% May 2019 Vs. 2018, but whispers within the tourist industry are suggesting this could be as high as 40% down. That’s a huge fall and no one is really answering the question as to why?
I believe the answers could very well be there and, if true, it could be a very real headache for Thailand to overcome. My suspicions started after a recent meeting in Bangkok with certain General Managers from the Hotel industry, they were suggesting China has cut the number of chartered flights in order to encourage more Chinese to holiday at home in China.
I looked everywhere online for validation of these claims. The Chinese Government are cutting pilot flying hours from the end of this year, which could loosely be connected, see article here. But besides that nothing would back these claims up, but China, being communist, will have tight reins on media communications.
It is certainly plausible that the Chinese Government may have cut chartered flights as it rings true with what I have been being told for the last three years at the annual Global Tourism Forum held in Macao. Most interestingly, this forum is funded entirely by the Chinese and for all invitees it costs zero to attend. So that is flights, food and accommodation all paid for. There are at least 2,000 attendees from the global tourism industry and media representation (hence my invite).
Every year the main speaker reaches out to countries to say they are happy to send tourists to their countries but likewise, they should be sending tourists to back China. I am not so convinced this has been happening.
Yes, I know this is lots of ifs, buts and maybes… but, just maybe there is something to this narrative.
On balance and looking at the trends I can only think this current blip is just that, a blip. Thailand has been growing as a destination for the Chinese year on year. Safety, however, is the most important factor in where the Chinese choose to travel and so the Phuket boat tragedy in July 2018, in which 47 Chinese tourists died, would have an impact, but Thailand does seem to have recovered from that.
For now, it appears nothing more than speculation whether firstly Chinese numbers are down more than 8% and secondly the reasons for why this happening. It is, however, interesting food for thought that those in the industry are seemingly singing off the same hymn sheet as to exactly why this could be happening. Could the Chinese have cut chartered flights like some think, well it is possible but I am not so convinced without seeing some actual proof?