China will no longer be Thailand’s biggest tourist source by 2023

Tourists visit the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand on January 7, 2023.Photo courtesy of Reuters

Malaysia will surpass China as the largest feeder market for Thai tourists in 2023, with 4.56 million arrivals.

According to the Tourism Board of Thailand, Chinese tourists came in second with 3.51 million, followed by Koreans (1.65 million), Indians (1.62 million), and Russians (1.48 million).

Travel between Malaysia and Thailand, two of the ASEAN member states, is facilitated by visa exemptions.

Before the pandemic, Chinese tourists were the largest market for Thailand’s tourism industry. More than 11 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand in 2019, accounting for more than a quarter of the total number of foreign tourists.

However, the shopping mall shooting in Bangkok in September last year that killed two foreigners, including a Chinese national, affected the confidence of Chinese tourists. Chinese airlines canceled flights to Thailand in December and January one after another due to weak demand.

A quarterly travel sentiment survey released last November by Singapore-based digital marketing firm China Trading Desk found that Thailand is no longer the top choice for Chinese tourists. The survey surveyed more than 10,000 Chinese residents about their future overseas travel plans, and the top responses were Singapore, Europe, and South Korea.

Amid a decline in Chinese tourists, Thai Prime Minister Suretta Thavisin announced on Tuesday that Thailand and China will permanently waive visa requirements for each other’s nationals starting in March.

Last year, Thailand welcomed 28 million foreign tourists, generating 1.2 trillion baht (US$35.3 trillion) in tourism revenue.

This year, it is targeting 35 million foreign tourists.

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