For years, Thailand welcomed legions of Chinese tourists to its golden beaches, shopping districts and striking temples.
That came to a screeching halt during the Covid pandemic, as China virtually sealed its borders.
Now, the Southeast Asian nation is back on the welcome wagon — and telling the world it’s open for business.
Three government ministers headed to Bangkok’s international airport earlier this week to personally greet the first group of Chinese tourists to arrive after China lifted travel restrictions.
Passengers touching down from the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen were presented with flower garlands as they walked by a banner that read: “China and Thailand are one family. Amazing Thailand always warmly welcomes our Chinese family.”
Bill Barnett, founder and managing director of C9 Hotelworks, a hospitality consultancy in Phuket, said the move underscored the economic significance of Chinese tourists, who were embraced with “arms wide open.”
In 2019, Thailand was the most-visited international destination by Chinese travelers, welcoming around 11 million tourists — over a quarter of the country’s overseas arrivals. Only Hong Kong and Macao, two special administrative regions of China, received more Chinese visitors.
Speaking to reporters at the airport Monday, Thailand’s deputy prime minister and minister of public health, Anutin Charnvirakul, said it was important to send a strong signal to revive its economy.
“The arrival of tourists from China, as well as from countries around the world, to Thailand is expected to increase continually. This is a good sign for Thailand’s tourism sector,” he said.
“If every Thai person welcomes these tourists with warm hospitality, and we also take good care of our health, it will accelerate the economic recovery after our suffering from the Covid-19 pandemic for three years.”