Chinese tourists flock to Chiang Mai, Phuket

Chinese tourists are flocking to Chiang Mai and Phuket one week after the deadly bombing in Bangkok, with hotel room reservations rising in both destinations, despite a rash of cancellations from overseas for travel to Thailand.

Pornchai Jitnawasatian, president of the Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association, said on Tuesday that the number of visitors to Chiang Mai has significantly risen since the Erawan Shrine bomb blast in Bangkok on Aug 17.

Hotel reservations in the northern province were up to 70-80% occupancy for Chinese national holidays and bookings were still coming in and expected to reach 90-95% soon, he said.

During the same period of last year, only 40-50% of hotel rooms were booked.

The increase in tourist arrivals is expected to generate 1-1.5 billion baht in Chiang Mai, said Mr Pornchai.

He attributed the high numbers to the tourist attractions which were the city’s strengths, tightened security measures and the 30 or more flights directly to the city.

Prices of tour packages to Chiang Mai were also cheaper than other tourist cities, making it attractive for tourists.

He expected Chiang Mai tourism would expand by 10-15% this year, with a rise in the number of Chinese tourists, particularly those travelling in tour groups.

Kristsada Tansakul, president of the Thai Hotels Association (Southern Chapter), said Chinese travelers were still visiting Phuket, with several popular beaches, and the occupancy rate in August remained at 85-90%. The association expected the overall occupancy rate in the third quarter would stay around 70%.

The Chinese market was still growing and the association hoped to attract two million Chinese visitors to the island province in 2015.

Sathirapong Na Takuatoong, president of Phuket Tourism Business Association, said Phuket received 12.5 million visitors in 2014 and this year Phuket international airport had experienced a daily average rise in visitors of 30%.

There were about 95,000 rooms in Phuket. Chinese nationals were the largest group of tourists, followed by Australians and Russians.

The Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) on Tuesday reported that 5% of foreign bookings for travel to Thailand had been cancelled since the Aug 17 explosion, but an average of 20,000 tourists were arriving every day.

ATTA president Charoen Wangananont said the period of cancellations was expected to be short-lived, and be limited to the first couple of weeks after the Erawan attack.

During China’s National Day celebrations, Chinese have a long 10-day holiday, from Oct 1 to Oct 10. During this period, 200,000-350,000 Chinese tourists were expected to visit Thailand, up 10-20% from the same period of last year, Mr Charoen said.

Juthaporn Rerngronasa, deputy governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said the TAT board would meet on Aug 28 to prepare short-, middle- and long-term measures to stimulate touirism. Emphasis would be given to restoring tourists’ confidence.

She said the tourism revenue target for this year remained unchanged.

A total of 30 countries had issued travel advisories following the Erawan shrine bombing. Most issued ‘’level 2’’ advisories, telling citizens to take extra care during travel in the kingdom. None had warned citizens to avoid travel to Thailand, she said.