A Necessary Step But Devasting Effects For the Zero-Dollar Tourism Clampdown in Thailand

Nan, Northern Thailand

Since the Thai government started to clampdown on Zero-Dollar Tourism packages in Thailand, the growl rises among professionals of the travel industry. Because, in contrary to early official statements of tourism authorities, the effect is largely negative on the activity.

Zero-Dollar Tours should have been banned for a long time. They mostly target Chinese travellers, luring them with extremely cheap- almost free tours to Thailand. However, once in the Kingdom, visitors MUST spend money in designated stores or eat in selected restaurants at extreme inflated prices. A real scam that the Thai government wanted to end.

Except that they forgot just one thing. As the phenomenon has been there for a decade or more, lots of tourist activities in the country are now extremely dependant of that kind of tourism. Since the government started to track Zero-Dollar Tours operators, Chinese have started to avoid Thailand -an increase in visa fee did not further help!

Data released by Thailand’s Department of Tourism show that in October, arrivals from Chinese were down during that month. The decline in total Chinese travellers reached 16.5%. By comparison, global tourist arrivals were up by a modest 0.4% during October.

They are a multitude of reports pointing over companies facing difficulties following the crackdown. Thai Low cost carrier Nok Air for example decided to postpone the openign of new flights to China. The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) ordered recently that three airlines present financial rehabilitation plans after experiencing financial difficulties due to the decline in Chinese visitors. Thai charter carrier NextGen, which assure flights to China, recorded a loss of THB500 million in the quarter, wiping out all the benefits of the airlines during the precedent nine months.

For October, Airports of Thailand indicated that passengers’ traffic through the Kingdom’s main airports slowed considerably. With a growth ate of 6.13%, it was so far the worst performance of the year 2016. Talking to the Bangkok Post,  Suvarnabhumi Airport general manager Sirote Duangratana indicated that the number of Chinese tourists entering Thailand per day via the airport dropped to 4,000 from 13,000 in August.

The Ministry of Sports and Tourism as well as the Tourism Authority of Thailand continue however to spread optimism over the results for 2016. TAT and the Min istry still forecasts total arrivals to reach between 33 and 34 million while the Ministry still beleives that Mainland China would generate 8.8 to 9.5 million Chinese visitors to the Kingdom. The recent abolition of visa fees until the end of February for China will certainly contribute to mitigate the crackdown on Zero Dollar Tours…