Visitors stroll in Phimai Historical Park, about 270 kilometers northeast of Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 24, 2022. (Xinhua/Chen Jiabao)
In the eyes of a Thai tuk-tuk driver who gave his name as Mak, the return of Chinese tourists means the revival of Thailand’s economy.
BANGKOK, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) — China’s recent optimization of its COVID-19 response and gradual restoration of Chinese citizens’ overseas travel have enthused those working in the tourism sectors of Asia-Pacific countries.
In the eyes of a Thai tuk-tuk driver who gave his name as Mak, the return of Chinese tourists means the revival of Thailand’s economy. He hopes the hustle and bustle of foreign tourists on Bangkok’s streets before the pandemic hit three years ago would soon come back.
In 2019, Thailand welcomed about 40 million foreign tourists, nearly 30 percent of whom were Chinese tourists.
Thai Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said that China’s gradual restoration of its citizens’ overseas travel and other favorable factors could boost Thailand’s tourism sector, Thailand’s key economic growth contributor, pushing the Thai economy to grow 3.8 percent in 2023.
Philippine President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr. invited the Chinese people to visit his country as tourists, students and investors. “I shall push for the resumption of tourism and cultural cooperation between our two countries,” he said.
Tourists take photos on the beach of Gili Trawangan, one of the three Gili islands in Lombok, Indonesia on March 18, 2022. (Xinhua/Xu Qin)
Indonesian Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno said the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge negative impact on many sectors of Indonesia, including tourism.
“We lost almost 1 million plus job,” he said, adding that cooperation with China is very important for the recovery of Indonesia’s tourism sector.
Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen said he was very pleased to welcome back Chinese tourists, saying that their presence is vital to the country’s tourism and economic growth.
“When China reopens its borders, flights will increase many times, so we hope to welcome about 2 million Chinese tourists again (in 2023),” Hun Sen said.
TOURISM SECTOR PREPARATIONS
The tourism sectors of Asia-Pacific countries have been gearing up for the return of Chinese tourists in the new year.
In New Zealand, some travel agencies have been communicating with their Chinese counterparts and customizing the latest tour itineraries for the coming Chinese tourists.
Li Ruiqin, managing director of China Travel Service (NZ) Ltd., said Chinese tourists spend an average of 4,900 NZ dollars (about 3,064 U.S. dollars) per person when staying in New Zealand.
A visitor practises Chinese martial arts at the Wharariki Beach of the Golden Bay tourist site in New Zealand, May 23, 2021. (Photo by Zhang Jianyong/Xinhua)
The orderly resumption of outbound travel for Chinese tourists will be “a major boon to New Zealand’s tourism industry,” she said.
Travel specialist He Qingyuan in Australia said as the Chinese Lunar New Year is around the corner, he, along with his peers, is customizing exclusive tours for Chinese visitors.
Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said the tourism sector is gearing up for the return of Chinese tourists. Besides their favorite activities of visiting beaches and enjoying the food, “we would like to promote exclusive tour packages in the northeast region, the less trampled corner of Thailand filled with natural beauty and authentic Thainess,” he said.
On the world-famous Boracay island in the central Philippines, the once-closed Chinese restaurants have been reopening one by one, and some local travel agencies have produced tour packages themed around the Chinese Lunar New Year, hoping to lure the first batch of Chinese tourists after the border reopens.
Indonesia’s “paradise on Earth,” Bali island, is no exception. Azril Azahari, chairman of the Indonesia Tourism Intellectual Association, said he expects an early arrival of Chinese tourists to Bali to enjoy the upgraded and diversified travel services.
Tourists visit the Temple of Preah Vihear in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, April 4, 2022. (Xinhua/Wu Changwei)
RATIONAL APPROACH NEEDED
China’s recent announcement that it would downgrade the management of COVID-19 from Class A to Class B from Jan. 8 has been warmly welcomed by many countries, which have also called for rational pandemic prevention measures.
Welcoming Chinese visitors, Hun Sen said China’s upcoming reopening of its borders will revitalize Cambodia’s economy and tourism, adding his country will not impose restrictions on Chinese tourists.
In a statement on Wednesday, Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said Thailand has considered COVID-19 a communicable disease under surveillance.
Foreign visitors entering Thailand from all parts of the world will be treated equally and no special public health measures will be implemented to discourage travelers from any particular country.
Teo Yik Ying, dean of the Saw Swee Hoch School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore, said Singapore has a high vaccination rate and it is unnecessary for it to impose additional travel regulations on Chinese tourists.
(Xinhua reporters Liu Kai in Manila, Wang Aona, Sun Lei in Jakarta, Lu Huaiqian, Li Huizi in Wellington, Hao Yalin in Sydney, Wu Changwei in Phnom Penh, Zhang Dongqiang in Yangon, Lin Hao, Chen Jiabao, Wang Yuanyuan in Bangkok, Li Yan, Cai Shuya in Singapore, and Sun Yi in Hanoi contributed to the story.)■