Mainland tourists are flocking to Thailand as a result of a recent boycott of South Korea over Seoul’s deployment of a missile defense system.
Ronnarong Chewinsiriamnuai, president of the Thai-Chinese Tourism Alliance Association, said the number of tourists from China has soared by 15 to 20 percent, bringing visitor numbers to about 80 percent of the last year’s levels.
In 2016, Thailand received 8.87 million tourists from China, lower than an expected 10 million because of a Thai crackdown on cheap tour packages.
This year, Thailand is hoping to welcome nine million Chinese visitors.
According to several Chinese travel websites, as many as 311,000 mainlanders visited Thailand during the Lunar New Year period alone.
In 2016, Thailand pocketed the highest travel-related income of 439.2 billion baht (US$12.52 billion) from mainland Chinese visitors, followed by Japan and South Korea.
The travel industry makes up 12 percent of Thailand’s national income. Mainland tourists are the largest group of visitors to Thailand.
Chewinsiriamnuai said Chinese arrivals will continue to increase as the tense relationship between China and South Korea persists, making Thailand one of the favorite destinations for Chinese travelers.
Beijing is angry at Seoul’s deployment of the THAAD missile defense system which not only protects South Korea from missile attacks from the North but also monitors Beijing’s military developments, news website hk01 reports.
Meanwhile, fewer people are frequenting popular tourists spots in South Korea such as Dongdaemun and Myeong-dong, with many local shops complaining of plunging sales, according to Apple Daily.
The travel industry is making every effort to lure visitors from places other than China such as Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan in order to make up for the slack in mainland tourists.
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