Flights from China to Thailand almost full amid visa waivers, Thai Airways says

“We have seen significant growth in terms of Chinese traffic into Thailand,” the carrier’s Chief Commercial Officer Korakot Chatasingha said in an interview on Monday.

Thailand is banking on Chinese visitors to lead a spending recovery as policy tweaks and new airport infrastructure bolster the tourism-dependent nation. Bangkok’s busiest airport just last week opened a new terminal.


Thailand rolls out red carpet for Chinese tourists on visa-free scheme

Thailand rolls out red carpet for Chinese tourists on visa-free scheme

Thai Airways, which is going through a debt restructuring after Covid, said last month it plans to increase its flights to five Chinese cities to 56 a week, up from 49, starting from December 1.

Chinese tourists from September 25 to February 29 can enjoy visa-free entry to Thailand as the popular holiday destination seeks to boost flagging tourist numbers from Asia’s biggest economy. Eight months into 2023, arrivals from China are only about 50 per cent of pre-pandemic volumes, Korakot said.

While Korakot said he remains confident in the long-term recovery of Thailand’s largest source of foreign tourists, the airline is weighing whether to further increase China flights to pre-Covid levels.

Chinese tourists inject US$4 billion into Thailand after visa waivers

“We are trying to anticipate if the number is growing strongly, we believe we can go back to the levels in 2019,” Korakot said.

The news comes as Thailand’s capital city is set to add a third passenger terminal to its biggest airport in preparation for a surge in tourist arrivals under the visa waiver programme.

Airports of Thailand Pcl, which operates Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi international airport, on Friday opened for a trial of the satellite terminal built at a cost of about 35 billion baht ($1 billion). Airlines including Thai units of AirAsia X Bhd and VietJet Aviation JSC will operate from the facility, which is expected to reach its full capacity of 15 million passengers next year.

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin (centre) at the launch of Suvarnabhumi airport’s new SAT-1 satellite terminal in Bangkok on Friday. Photo: Xinhua

The addition of the new terminal comes as Thailand is expecting a rush of tourists during the so-called high season from now until the end of February for the local travel industry. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who attended the terminal’s soft launch, said his government was promoting tourism as it can quickly help stimulate the nation’s sagging economy. “Tourism can create jobs and income for the Thai people quickly,” he said.

Bangkok airport gets new terminal to deal with visa-free Chinese tourist rush

The government also plans to invest about 89 billion baht to expand flight capacity at the airports in Krabi and on the resort island of Phuket and to build a new airport in Phang Nga province, Srettha said in a statement.

Thailand, popular for its tourist destinations from temples to beaches, is expected to welcome between 25 million to 30 million travellers this year, who may generate 1.5 trillion baht in revenue, according to the government. The country has seen 19.5 million tourists arrive so far this year, with the travellers from Malaysia, China and South Korea topping the list.

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