Chinese carriers give up extra flight slots as travel demand takes a hit

The campaign to entice more long-stay tourists to Thailand has not been as effective as government projections hoped, with the disappointing numbers of arrivals leading Chinese carriers to readjust operational requirements for flights into Thailand for the near future.

The knock-on effect comes from less-than-successful attempts to inspire Chinese tourists with reduced admin and costs for long-term visas to stay in the country. The launch of the campaign meant that several Chinese airlines requested extra flight slots into Suvarnabhumi International Airport, alongside additional ground crew to cope with increased operations.

Thailand’s campaign to entice more long-stay tourists to Thailand has not been as effective; passengers at Suvarnabhumi airport, pictured (Photo: Champhei)

At the time of launch (during Golden Week), numbers in arrivals went up to approximately 18,000 passengers per day. However, once Golden Week concluded, the figures slumped down to just 8,000, before rising slightly to 10,000 – but these numbers have not been enough to impact the economy in real terms.

When the drive for more Chinese arrivals failed to inspire tourists to come to Thailand in anywhere near the numbers expected, the airlines did not sell enough tickets to make the additional flights profitable, and they had to give up the extra staffing requirements and additional flight windows.

The scheme for reducing red tape and fees for long-term visas has been a key component of prime minister Srettha Thavisin’s strategy for reinvigorating the economy, and he was keen to defend its potential, laying the blame for the shortfall on a stagnant Chinese economy and China’s promotion of domestic travel. It is also impossible to ignore the impact the Bangkok mall shooting in October has had on a source market that places a premium on safety and security.

However, Srettha remains confident in the allure of the visa exemption campaign and there are plans to roll out similar terms in other territories, including India, Taiwan, and potentially Europe.

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