Thai Airways flights from China almost full after visa waiver

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BANGKOK – Thai Airways International says flights from China have been more than 90 per cent full after South-east Asia’s second-largest economy temporarily relaxed visa rules for visitors.

“We have seen significant growth in terms of Chinese traffic into Thailand,” the carrier’s chief commercial officer Korakot Chatasingha told Bloomberg Television on Monday.

Thailand is banking on Chinese visitors to lead a spending recovery as policy tweaks and new airport infrastructure bolster the tourism-dependent nation. Bangkok’s busiest airport just last week opened a new terminal.

Thai Airways, which is going through a debt restructuring after Covid-19, said in September that it plans to increase its flights to five Chinese cities to 56 a week, up from 49, starting Dec 1.

Chinese visitors can enjoy visa-free entry to Thailand from Sept 25 to Feb 29 as the popular holiday destination seeks to boost flagging tourist numbers from Asia’s biggest economy. Eight months into 2023, arrivals from China are only about 50 per cent of pre-pandemic volumes, Mr Korakot said.

While Mr Korakot remains confident in the long-term recovery of Thailand’s largest source of foreign tourists, the airline is weighing whether to further increase China flights to pre-Covid-19 levels.

“We are trying to anticipate if the number is growing strongly, we believe we can go back to the levels in 2019,” he said. BLOOMBERG

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