Chinese tourists set to return to the world in bigger numbers as
travel agencies in the mainland are now allowed to resume outbound group
tours from 6 February.
Chinese authorities say that people will be allowed to travel in
groups to 20 countries, including Thailand and Indonesia, giving these
Southeast Asian countries an advantage over other popular destinations
like Japan, South Korea and the US, which are not on the list.
Airlines and hotels in the region are looking forward to the return
of Chinese tourists, who made about 150 million trips abroad in 2019,
with about 27 million being visits to six major Southeast Asian
Thai AirAsia, for example, is resuming direct flights from Bangkok to
eight Chinese cities, and Indonesian Lion Air is operating charter
flights from Shenzhen to Bali.
The return of Chinese travellers is also driving new investments,
such as the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore, which is undergoing a
US$1 billion renovation. There are also plans for a 15,000-seat arena,
convention space, and a luxury tower to be built next to Marina Bay
Sands, with completion set for 2026.
Hospitals in Thailand are also preparing to capture medical tourism
demand from China, with Thonburi Healthcare Group forking out 1.2
billion baht (US$35.8 million) to double the number of beds at its main
hospital in Bangkok by year-end.
Half of the patients at Thonburi Hospital in Thailand are foreigners,
mainly high-income Chinese who travel there for Covid-19 vaccinations.
The number is expected to rise to nearly 100% with the increase in
Malaysia's IHH Healthcare is renovating a hospital in Singapore for
S$350 million (US$264 million) to meet growing healthcare needs and
demand for admissions, both locally and internationally.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government announced that travel between the
mainland, Hong Kong, and Macau will fully resume without any quotas or
Covid-19 testing requirements from 6 February.
China earlier reopened its borders on 8 January, but a quota system
and Covid testing requirements remained for travellers between the
mainland and Hong Kong.