Over the years there has been little doubt that the demographics of the tourists visiting Thailand has changed significantly. One of Thailand’s greatest strengths is its ability to adapt to changing markets and changing circumstances. A decade ago, most visitors came from western Europe, the US and Australia, this gradually progressed to large numbers coming from Russia and eastern Europe and now we see the largest proportion coming from other parts of Asia – predominantly China.
The biggest beneficiaries of this have been the main tourist hotspots such as Pattaya, Phuket and Koh Samui. At the start of October, an article was published in the Bangkok Post referring to the week-long national holiday in China. A large influx of Chinese tourists had certainly been expected but the extent to which it happened was almost at unprecedented levels. Nowhere benefitted more from the influx than the southern province of Surat Thani and particularly the island of Koh Samui.
The week-long holiday, known in China as the Golden Week, saw 720 million Chinese taking trips both in their homeland and overseas. The most popular destinations were Japan, Singapore and of course Thailand – a country that is becoming hugely popular with Chinese tourists.
Senee Phuvasetthavorn, the vice-chairman of the Tourist Promotion Association on Koh Samui, announced that the island was expecting between 8,000 and 10,000 visitors from China for the Golden Week alone. Some initial reports suggest that this may have been a conservative estimate with more turning up than had been expected.
The masses of Chinese tourists coming to Thailand is obviously a huge feather in the cap for the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). Mr. Senee reinforced this by claiming that the Chinese were big spenders in Thailand with their spend expected to exceed THB200 million in the one week on Koh Samui. In fact, most of the tourists stopped in the top four and five-star hotels on the island rather than mid-range hotels that they are usually associated with.
Charter flights from Chengdu, Kunming and Shanghai were landing at the nearby Surat Thani airport with similar increases in foot flow reported at Suvarnabhumi, Don Muang and U-Tapao airports. At a time when the country is officially still in the ‘low season’ it obviously gives the local economies a huge boost.
Chinese visitors to Thailand enjoy the local shopping and purchasing locally made products as gifts for friends and relatives back home – something that is a large part of Chinese culture. In some resort cities activities such as diving are also seeing an increased number of participants and shows in cities such as Pattaya are also hugely popular.
It would appear that many of these visitors plan to return again and again with many real estate developers and agents reporting that interest and demand in condominiums under THB10 million is certainly on the rise from this group. It would seem that Chinese guests are no longer looking at Thailand as a destination just for holidays but now as a place to invest and get healthy returns on their money – far greater than they could at home.