China / Society

Thailand's political unrest concerns Chinese tourists

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-05-24 16:55

GUANGZHOU - Dai Chengliang, a teacher at Shanghai University of Engineering Science, was left disappointed when his planned visit to a Thailand university next Monday had to be canceled due to a military coup in the country.

Rather than dwell on the disappointment, Dai has decided to continue with his trip and hopes for "an adventure."

"My family is worried, and many friends have shown concern," Dai said. "But I have the telephone number of the embassy in Thailand in case of an emergency."

Other tourists are far more concerned. They made their worries known on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter, after the Thailand army declared a military coup and seized power from the caretaker government on Thursday.

The Embassy of China in Thailand issued a notice, saying "to ensure safety and prevent accidents, Chinese tourists that plan to visit Thailand should carefully assess the safety risks and come to Thailand cautiously."

The Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong announced on Friday that all group tours to Thailand would be canceled from Saturday to next Friday, affecting 1,300 people.

In the mainland, although no tour groups are reported to have been canceled, tourists are increasingly concerned, and travel agencies have launched emergency response plans.

Kuang Yingjun, with the marketing department of China International Travel Service's Guangdong Province branch, said the company has 50 tourists in Thailand and they have not been affected.

"Some have spoken to us about the latest developments, asking whether it's safe to continue with their trip," she said. "It hasn't affected us as our travel routes don't cover politically sensitive locations such as government buildings and media outlets."

She added, "But we are closely monitoring the situation. Should a large-scale protest break out we will adjust the route."

Su Feng, deputy director of the marketing center at Nanhu Travel, one of the biggest tour agencies in Guangdong, said they are helping visitors to communicate with their families. With 245 holidaymakers in Thailand and 410 planning to go, he said there are no plans to cancel any trips.

China is the number one source of international tourists for Thailand. Statistics from the Shanghai office of Thailand tourism authorities showed that in 2013, 4.7 million Chinese tourists visited the country, accounting for 18 percent of all international visitors.

The office had expected the number of tourists to increase by 12.8 percent in 2014 to 5.3 million. However, the political turmoil which started in November has already taken its toll.

In the first three months of the year, fewer than 1 million Chinese holidaymakers visited the country, down 17.77 percent year on year, according to office.

"The number of tourists from second and third-tier cities has decreased," said Chen Yijuan, the office's public relations manager.

She said the number of regular travelers from first-tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou has been increasing, and that most of them choose self-guided tours, indicating that the market is still attractive.

Yet, turbulence in Thailand over several years has shaken confidence.

Mei Ge, general manager of Junjie international travel agency in Shenzhen, said after protesters occupied Bangkok's airport in 2008 that left many of its customers stranded, she canceled the company's Thailand route, which at the time was attracting up to 6,000 people every month.

"Tourism is very vulnerable. The continuous political turmoil in Thailand is a heavy blow to the travel industry," she said. "We dare not send tourists to Thailand anymore. If a tourist is involved in an accident, who would dare shoulder the responsibility?"

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