Thailand opens “VIP” immigration lanes exclusively for Chinese visitors

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Thailand’s authorities introduced special immigration lanes at five international airports in the country just for Chinese visitors, saying it was for their “ease and convenience.”

Senior officers from the Immigration Bureau and the Tourist Police Bureau led a media crew from China to inspect the special lanes at Suvarnabhumi airport on August 3, stressing the importance of China as the top-ranked source of visitors to Thailand. More than ten million Chinese visitors entered Thailand last year.

However, the officials did not mention what was obvious for everybody: That the “VIP” treatment for Chinese visitors came as arrivals plunged after a deadly boat accident in Phuket involving Chinese tourists recently that saw many Chinese cancel their holidays in Thailand. The July accident killed 47 people, 16 of them children.

As a result, Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports has officially revised down its forecast for July to December by nearly 617,000 to 5.15 million expected Chinese tourists. The estimated total lost revenue from the cancellation stands at around $1.04 billion. Arrival numbers in August alone are expected to drop by eight per cent.

The charm offensive of exclusive immigration lanes just for Chinese is thus clearly aimed at restoring confidence of Chinese travelers in the Thai travel market. Suvarnahumi airport will have 18 special lanes for Chinese visitors and Don Mueang airport 21 lanes. There will be eight lanes at Chiang Mai airport, 18 at Phuket and ten at Hat Yai. Officials with Chinese language proficiency will staff the lanes to resolve problems such as filling out immigration cards which are in English language.

There are no plans for special lanes for other visiting nationalities at this stage, the tourism officials said. There has been criticism in social media as to why Chinese get preferred treatment over, for example, long-time expats in Thailand who have businesses there and pay taxes, but still have to queue with tourists when returning to the country from an overseas trip.

However, the overall tourism numbers are not that bad. Thailand’s tourist arrivals reached 19.48 million during the first six months of 2018, recording an increase of 12.46 per cent, the Tourism Authority of Thailand announced on August 7.

The top three supply markets were China, Malaysia and South Korea. For the first six months, China supplied 5,931,000 tourist visits to Thailand, up 25.88 per cent.

Arrivals from Europe were down due to special factors this year such as Russia hosting the World Cup, extremely hot summer weather across Europe, as well as a slowdown in economic growth and spending power.

In total, Thailand earned 1.02 trillion baht ($31.4 billion) in tourism revenue, an increase of 15.88 per cent, in the first half of 2018 compared with the same period last year. Tourism revenue from foreign travelers for the full year 2018 is projected to close at around 2 trillion baht ($61.54 billion).

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Thailand’s authorities introduced special immigration lanes at five international airports in the country just for Chinese visitors, saying it was for their “ease and convenience.”

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Thailand’s authorities introduced special immigration lanes at five international airports in the country just for Chinese visitors, saying it was for their “ease and convenience.”

Senior officers from the Immigration Bureau and the Tourist Police Bureau led a media crew from China to inspect the special lanes at Suvarnabhumi airport on August 3, stressing the importance of China as the top-ranked source of visitors to Thailand. More than ten million Chinese visitors entered Thailand last year.

However, the officials did not mention what was obvious for everybody: That the “VIP” treatment for Chinese visitors came as arrivals plunged after a deadly boat accident in Phuket involving Chinese tourists recently that saw many Chinese cancel their holidays in Thailand. The July accident killed 47 people, 16 of them children.

As a result, Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports has officially revised down its forecast for July to December by nearly 617,000 to 5.15 million expected Chinese tourists. The estimated total lost revenue from the cancellation stands at around $1.04 billion. Arrival numbers in August alone are expected to drop by eight per cent.

The charm offensive of exclusive immigration lanes just for Chinese is thus clearly aimed at restoring confidence of Chinese travelers in the Thai travel market. Suvarnahumi airport will have 18 special lanes for Chinese visitors and Don Mueang airport 21 lanes. There will be eight lanes at Chiang Mai airport, 18 at Phuket and ten at Hat Yai. Officials with Chinese language proficiency will staff the lanes to resolve problems such as filling out immigration cards which are in English language.

There are no plans for special lanes for other visiting nationalities at this stage, the tourism officials said. There has been criticism in social media as to why Chinese get preferred treatment over, for example, long-time expats in Thailand who have businesses there and pay taxes, but still have to queue with tourists when returning to the country from an overseas trip.

However, the overall tourism numbers are not that bad. Thailand’s tourist arrivals reached 19.48 million during the first six months of 2018, recording an increase of 12.46 per cent, the Tourism Authority of Thailand announced on August 7.

The top three supply markets were China, Malaysia and South Korea. For the first six months, China supplied 5,931,000 tourist visits to Thailand, up 25.88 per cent.

Arrivals from Europe were down due to special factors this year such as Russia hosting the World Cup, extremely hot summer weather across Europe, as well as a slowdown in economic growth and spending power.

In total, Thailand earned 1.02 trillion baht ($31.4 billion) in tourism revenue, an increase of 15.88 per cent, in the first half of 2018 compared with the same period last year. Tourism revenue from foreign travelers for the full year 2018 is projected to close at around 2 trillion baht ($61.54 billion).

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