Independent tour groups from China and Southeast Asia have contributed much to Thailand's tourism and they will continue to do so as the government closes down "zero dollar tours" to rake in more than $50bn in revenue. Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister believes that a better tourism outlook for Thailand can help increase tourism numbers by 8.5 percent.
According to Reuters, Thailand Deputy Prime Minister Thanasak Patimaprakorn believes the country could increase its current tourism population rate by 8.5 percent and could bring in more than $50bn in revenue for 2017. The Deputy Prime Minister cited positive global tourism outlook and the government's focus on quality tourism rather than tourist numbers.
Thailand's tourism economy recently suffered immense losses after China-based tourism companies controlled the number of tourists coming into Thailand and used their own services "locking" foreign tourists in their all-expense-paid itineraries. The result is less money coming in to local Thai tourism services.
The Financial Times reported that, the Thai government is also eyeing "free independent travelers" from China. The "FITs" use internet-based technologies and bookings allowing them to bypass usual Chinese travel agencies to China -- which many young Chinese travelers believe overcharge them for the service provided.
The news website cites Thailand Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul's estimate that FITs from China were 60% of the 8.9 million Thailand travelers in 2016. The crackdown on "zero dollar tour" agencies also allowed Chinese travelers the "freedom" to roam about the country -- something the Chinese travel agencies discourage. The news website cited an anonymous Thai tour agent who claimed tourists who "go to an undesignated shop" -- stepping out of "a tightly controlled network" -- are "scolded, sometimes hit and not given their hotel room keys."
The crackdown on the "zero dollar tours" could temporarily drop Chinese travel numbers, but the Deputy Prime Minister believes a better quality tour is more important as it would attract a larger number of returning tourists with first-time travelers from China. The Chinese FITs are the ones who are most likely to make this happen, according to Financial Times.