Chinese tourist arrivals have nose-dived following the shooting incident at Bangkok’s Siam Paragon shopping mall earlier this month, with more than 60,000 trips to Thailand being cancelled by Chinese tourists.
According to data from the Airports of Thailand, arrivals from China have fallen from 650,000 to 590,000.
The shooting dulled the shine of Thailand’s red carpet roll-out for the Chinese travel market, which included a visa waiver for extended stays and reduced paperwork and financial commitment associated with long-term visas applications for tourists from China between September 25 and February 2024. These initiatives were introduced to help boost arrivals to pre-pandemic levels.
The shooting, alongside other issues, such as China’s stuttering economy, has caused trepidation about the immediate future of Thai tourism.
Personal safety while travelling abroad is paramount for Chinese holidaymakers, and despite the Thai government’s insistence that the effect of the shooting on arrivals is normal, travel and tourism stakeholders have called on lawmakers to establish clear legislation to prevent similar outbursts of violence in the future.
The Siam Paragon tragedy is not the first serious occurrence of gun violence in Thailand. In October 2022, a former police officer killed 36 people, including young children, using weapons he had acquired because of his status as an ex-law enforcer. Existing and former members of Thailand’s police and armed forces have special permission to access firearms and are able to purchase guns from the government with little or no oversight.
An anonymous independent travel agent in Bangkok spoke strongly about the rules, insisting that for people from China, a country with some of the world’s most stringent gun control regulations, the relatively easy access to firearms in Thailand is most off-putting.
“Most of my clients are from China, and I have been inundated with customer questions about the potential for more violence in the future, and many have postponed or cancelled their trips,” she told TTG Asia.
The agent also expressed her concerns about the immediate future.
“I don’t think this kind of thing will happen again soon, but it might. Even though there are laws preventing gun ownership in place, there are also many loopholes in the paperwork that must be closed or more people will die. This is usually one of my busiest times of the year, but now I am very worried about the next couple of months,” she added.
This caution was reflected in comments by the Northern Thai Hotel Association, which announced more than a third of all hotel bookings in the region had been cancelled or delayed. Its president Paisarn Sukcharoen told the Bangkok Post: “Gun control measures will restore a certain amount of confidence, but what matters is how the government executes them.”