“Foreign Tourists Are Flocking Back To Thailand”
With more of China’s outbound tourists headed to Southeast Asia, Thailand in particular has seen an influx of the increasingly globetrotting group, benefitted by the proximity of the two countries and the popularity of the low-budget Chinese comedy film “Lost in Thailand.” Since its release on December 12, “Lost in Thailand” has become the highest-grossing Chinese film ever, earning over 1 billion yuan at the box office, and the Association of Thai Travel Agents is confident that the film could help increase Chinese tourist arrivals in Thailand grow by 10 percent this year.
“The movie is helping boost sentiment and is increasing people’s desire to visit,” Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, the group’s president, said yesterday in an interview. “The global economic situation isn’t a big issue as we’ve seen the tourism industry grow a lot despite the slowdown. People who love traveling continue to do it anyway.”
Thailand is luring Chinese tourists away from Japan after a territorial dispute between Asia’s biggest economies led to a travel boycott last year. Hotel rates in Bangkok also remain about half those in Singapore and Hong Kong, while the baht’s gain in the past year has been overshadowed by bigger increases in the value of the Singapore dollar and the Philippine peso.
“Foreign tourists are flocking back to Thailand,” said Sittidath Prasertrungruang, an analyst at Krungsri Securities Co. “The Thai tourism industry is very resilient, with diversified sources of travelers from China and India to Russia,” he said, adding that travel-related stocks will outperform the benchmark SET Index (SET) this year.
“China is really just blowing everyone out of the water,” said William Heinecke, Minor’s chief executive officer. “In percentage terms, numbers from Europe and the U.K. are down. In actual numbers, they’re still the same or slightly higher. But the big growth is coming from Russia and China.”
This isn’t the first time a popular movie has motivated Chinese travelers to flock to a tourist destination. Back in 2009, the blockbuster “If You Are the One” by Chinese director Feng Xiaogang, which included a 20 minute sequence shot at Xixi in Hangzhou, led to a flood of visitors to the Xixi wetlands, while Zhangjiajie in Hunan province latched onto the success of “Avatar” in 2010, offering “Avatar”-themed package deals. In 2011, the Chinese drama “Eternal Moment,” part of which was shot in France, received support from the local Bordeaux wine commission as well as the French embassy in Beijing, both of which hoped the film’s backgrounds would encourage more Chinese tourists to visit the wine-growing region.