Gigantic Chinese Tour Groups Test Limits of Local Hospitality

Chinese tourists in Bangkok. (Jing Daily)

Chinese tourists in Bangkok. (Jing Daily)

Just days after the billionaire CEO of direct sales company Tiens Group Li Jinyuan made global news by treating over 6,000 employees to an all-expenses-paid trip to France, Li Huisen of herbal direct sales health product company Infinitus (no relation) has apparently looked to out-do his fellow countryman by splashing out on a similar junket to Thailand for all of his 12,700 employees.

With the trip taking place over the course of two weeks, and employees traveling in groups of 2,000 to 3,000, it is seeing Li’s employees take up 110 planes and 38,000 hotel rooms.

These enormous group tours are common for China’s Avon-like direct sales companies, which reward their top sellers with highly publicized trips to incentivize more signups. In addition to Tiens Group and Infinitus, direct sales group Perfect (China) Company sponsored a 7,000-strong group tour it Los Angeles last year, not long after direct cosmetics sales company Nu Skin paid for a group of 16,000 to visit the United Arab Emirates in April 2014.  

While most locations have rolled out the red carpet for these massive groups, Thailand may be trickier. Although Thai tourism official Juthaporn Rerngronasa seems excited about Li’s 12,000-strong group tour, many Thai locals have recently complained about the behavior of the millions of Chinese tourists pouring into the country. According to Rerngronasa, the group will infuse approximately 600 million baht (US$18 million) into the Thai economy.

Thailand has struggled to come to grips the exponentially increasing speed with which Chinese tourists have headed to the country. Following a string of high-profile incidents of bad behavior, Chinese tourists were briefly banned from entering the iconic “White Temple” of Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai, and in February, were accused of damaging a wooden stair pole at the Black House Museum, also in Chiang Rai.

In response, Thailand issued an etiquette manual for Chinese tourists ahead of the Chinese New Year tourism rush. To cope with the difficulties in accommodating this vast and occasionally unruly demographic, Thailand has been working to court upscale Chinese visitors in order to help generate more spending per person without the massive tour groups.

With non-Chinese tourism remaining sluggish in the wake of last year’s coup, Thailand needs its surge in Chinese arrivals in recent months. Chinese travelers attracted by the ease and relatively low cost of travel to the nearby country continue to pour much-needed millions into a Thai economy hit hard by plummeting exports.

According to Reuters, over 560,000 Chinese tourists visited Thailand in January alone, accounting for more than 20 percent of total arrivals, and the Kasikorn Research Center estimates the number of Chinese arrivals in Thailand to leap 13.5 percent to 5.25 million in 2015.

 

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