BANGKOK: Thailand today welcomed its first Chinese tour groups, three years after the Covid-19 pandemic as the kingdom woos back travellers from China to help restore its pandemic-battered tourism industry.

The first two groups of about 20 visitors each from Guangzhou landed at Don Mueang International Airport as Beijing relaxed a Covid-19 ban on outbound group tours beginning today.

Senior officials from Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and the Chinese Embassy in Thailand as well as representatives of the Thai public and private sector welcomed the tour groups at the airport.

A total of 14 flights bringing tour groups from China were scheduled to arrive Thailand on Monday.

Apart from Guangzhou, these flights operated by various airlines are scheduled to depart from several cities in China namely Xiamen, Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Chengdu, and Nanning, landing in Bangkok and Phuket airports.

The tour groups, according to TAT, have a six-day itinerary that includes beaches and temples in Bangkok as well as surrounding islands like Pattaya and Koh Samet.

The travellers are among the first to leave China after the resumption of outbound group travel to 20 countries, including Thailand, starting today.

Meanwhile, TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said Thailand is honoured to be among the 20 countries chosen to once again welcome tour groups from China.

“We are extremely pleased to receive these first groups today, and look forward to the many more to come. Our thanks goes to China, the Chinese tour operators and the Chinese tourists themselves for their continued confidence in Thailand as a preferred holiday destination.

“Thailand is set to welcome 5 million Chinese tourists this year,” he said.

In 2022, the number of Chinese tourists that visited Thailand totalled 286,511. Between January 1- February 2 this year, Thailand welcomed a total of 99,429 Chinese travellers.

A total of 300,000 Chinese tourists is projected to visit Thailand for the first quarter.

Thailand, one of Asia’s most popular travel destinations, was visited by nearly 40 million people in 2019.

However, the tourism industry almost collapsed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced the kingdom to introduce strict and costly entry requirements.

Last year, Thailand welcomed more than 11.15 million tourists, a surge from just about 428,000 in 2021 when travel restrictions were in place to curb Covid-19. - Bernama