WHILE the number of Chinese tourists visiting Thailand jumped by 20.54% from January to July this year and a crackdown is underway on the so called zero-dollar or kickback tours, other Asian countries too are facing a similar problem.
The Chinese Xinhua news agency circulated a report based on local media that that the Thai government has ordered a crackdown on zero-dollar tour operators and instructed officials to root out the illegal operation network without fear of any vicious power.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha feels strongly that the zero-dollar tour operations have rendered huge losses to the country and have tainted the image of the Thai tourism industry.
Travelmole.com recently said that tourism leaders in Bali have urged the authorities to crackdown on illegal Chinese tour guides, with claims the controversial practice of zero-dollar package tours are prevalent on the island.
“They are selling very low-priced travel packages and forcing tourists to shop at their stores. They do this in order to make up for the below market price of their travel packages,” Asnawi Bahar, chairman of the Indonesian Association of Travel Agents (ASITA) said.
ASITA has held discussions with the Association of Chinese Travel Agents and visited the Chinese Consulate General in Bali to raise the issue.
Meanwhile South China Morning Post recently quoted mainland and local media as saying that a growing number of Chinese tourists on low-cost group trips to Japan and South Korea have been greeted with forced shopping and meals cooked with expired ingredients.
The problem is particularly severe in South Korea where five-day tours can cost as little as 2,000 yuan (around 10,400 baht) – but whose itineraries mostly include visits to shopping centers arranged by the travel agency, Beijing Business Today reported.
Experts have warned that if the authorities do not provided better scrutiny of tour operators, South Korea and Japan may follow Hong Kong which saw its number of mainland visitors slump following poor travel experiences.
Chinese tourists have spent millions of yuan on holidays to Japan and South Korea, which pipped Hong Kong as the most popular travel destination for mainlanders last year.
A traveler named Wang told the Beijing newspaper she was pressed into shopping all day at a drab outlet mall in Daegu during a group tour to Seoul and Jeju. Her all-inclusive 2,499- yuan (around 12,995 baht) package tour included visits to eight shopping centers in five days.
Many of the tourists who sign up for low-budget tours to South Korea are professional “shopping agents” whose sole purpose is to buy goods overseas on behalf of their clients, a tour leader said.
Korean media also found that Korean restaurants serving only Chinese travelers used expired ingredients in their guests’ meals, South China Morning Post said.
On average 70% of the Chinese tourists coming to Thailand do so as part of group tours while the remainder 30% are independent travelers.
Tourism Authority of Thailand said recently that this year, from January to July, Chinese visitors to Thailand totaled 5,764,839, or a year-on-year increase of 20.54 per cent. TAT is projecting about 10.5 million Chinese visitors with a projected expenditure of 509 billion baht for the entire 2016.
China is Thailand’s leading and fastest growing source market. In 2015, Thailand attracted 7.9 million Chinese visitors, generating over 376 billion baht in revenue, up respectively 71 per cent and 87 per cent over 2014.
TOP: Chinese tourists visiting the ruins at Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Thailand which was destroyed by the Burmese in the 1700s. Photo: Connie Ma, CC-BY-SA-2.0
INSET: Chinese tourists at Dotonbori, Osaka. Photo: Daniel Ng, CC-BY-2.0
Compiled by Thai Residents reporters