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People queueing up to buy train tickets at Yichang East Railway Station in Yichang in China’s central Hubei province yesterday. -AFP pic
People queueing up to buy train tickets at Yichang East Railway Station in Yichang in China’s central Hubei province yesterday. -AFP pic

BANGKOK: Chinese tourists are expected to resume their travels soon as the Covid-19 situation in China stabilises and subsides.

Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn said outbound tour operators in China had informed partners in Thailand that two provinces, Zhejiang and Jiangsu, had lifted travel restrictions.

The Chinese are expected to only venture out within their own provinces first.

According to a Bangkok Post report, Yuthasak said operators in China expected most mainland residents to start taking domestic trips next month before resuming outbound trips later.

“This is the critical point we have to discuss. China has passed over 45 days of virus containment.

“Chinese tour operators are desperate to restart business.

“If at that time Thailand is still an unsafe place for travel, we’ll lose the opportunity.”

While the government prepares measures to cope with the spread of the Covid-19, the TAT will work with the private sector to prepare a safety and health administration programme.

The TAT and Public Health Ministry were implementing regulatory outlines to raise the cleaning and hygiene standards of tourism services such as attractions, hotels and restaurants.

The programme aimed to win the confidence of tourists as they increasingly prioritise health |and safety issues when choosing a destination.

The five TAT offices in China had been assigned to monitor the safety manuals and practices of tourism attractions in the mainland as case studies for assuring consumer confidence.

After getting results, the TAT will summarise them to the Public Health Ministry and come up with complete guidelines.

The TAT will seek cooperation from state agencies to give incentives to operators who are committed to keeping their employees or creating more job opportunities upon joining the programme.

Yuthasak said tourism businesses were in agreement on the initiative.

The industry would kick off with a clean-up drive nationwide once Thailand had the Covid-19 virus contained.

“The behaviour of global tourists will totally change because of the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.

“The TAT has a role in promotion, but if the products we sell are not good enough to meet tourists’ expectations, it’s worthless.”

Last February, Singapore launched the SG Clean campaign as a strategy to improve personal and public hygiene in light of the outbreak.

The lessons from the pandemic are also shaping the TAT’s marketing plan for 2021, which is being drafted.

Yuthasak acknowledged that Thailand could take many years to return to 40 million tourists, the agency had set growth at just eight per cent for 2021 and had already shifted focus from quantity to quality.

The global crisis has compelled the TAT to ramp up online marketing and set up virtual trade shows instead of joining tabletop-only sales events.

TAT deputy director for communication and marketing Thanet Phetsuwan said that in the 60 years of TAT’s operation, the coronavirus pandemic had proved the most difficult challenge, even when compared with incidents like tsunamis and floods.

He said the virus was not only hitting Thai tourism but was also leaving a lasting impact on the entire value chain of the global tourism industry.


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