Following the reopening of China’s borders on January 8, 2023, the comeback of Chinese tourists to Thailand marks a significant step towards the post-pandemic recovery of the country’s tourism sector. As one of the largest customer groups for Thailand’s hospitality market, the return of Chinese tourists is expected to have a major impact on the industry’s recovery.
Kasikorn Research Center predicts that about 4.65 million Chinese tourists will visit Thailand in 2023, which is around 42% of the total visitors in 2019. These volumes are expected to increase in the second quarter, and the trend will continue in the second half of the year as more flights become available. Thailand will likely welcome over 25.5 million visitors in 2023, which will generate roughly 1.07 trillion baht in income from the tourism sector.
Though the increasing number of tourists is good news for Thailand’s tourism industry, it also presents a series of challenges for hotels and travel businesses. They will need to prepare for high numbers of visitors and make sure they can meet their needs on a large scale.
So, what does the future hold for the tourism industry in Thailand? How can hotels and travel businesses prepare for the increasing number of Chinese tourists? How has the behavior of modern Chinese consumers changed? Read on to find out more.
As large number of tourists are visiting the southern seas of Thailand, such as Phuket, here is where the labor shortages are the most serious. According to data from the Ministry of Labor, Phuket needs to fill more than 17,000 vacant positions, while in Chiang Mai it is about 9,000 and in Chonburi, 3,000 spots.
A big challenge that Thai hoteliers are facing due to the labor shortages is the language barrier. Most hotel staff can’t speak Chinese, which often leads to miscommunication, and affects the guest experience. In an interview with the co-founder of the Monomer Hostel by Siam Commercial Bank, Khun Pueng Tirawongkul, she covers the usual travel habits of tourists from China in Thailand, including eating, sleeping, and shopping preferences. The co-founder mentions that the number of Chinese customers at the Monomer Hostel is increasing so fast that it leads to a series of problems and miscommunications.
“We usually ask a person who speaks Chinese or another Chinese customer to translate our house rules for the Chinese customers. If there is a Chinese explanation, the guests will understand. But if the guests do not get the information in their native language, it’s hard for them to know and follow the rules.” – Khun Pueng Tirawongkul speaks from experience.
Finding Chinese-speaking staff amidst labor shortage is incredibly difficult. If hiring qualified staff that are fluent in Mandarin isn’t an option, technologies, like chatbots or voice assistants can help. For example, voice assistants attend to the guests when they are in the room while also automating a number of tasks for the hotel staff like hotel FAQ or room service delivery.
Another battle that the hoteliers must prepare for are cultural differences between China and Thailand. Chinese tourists have different expectations when it comes to dining, sleeping, making payments and even the way they interact with the hotel staff.
According to the Monomer Hostel, the top 3 items requested by Chinese tourists are hot water, slippers, and a clothes rack.
When it comes to shopping, visitors from China have a strong preference for Alipay, the popular Chinese cashless payment service. Supporting this service and just putting out an Alipay sign at the shopfront will catch their eyes right away.
‘Visitors from China love shopping and they have a plan; wake up, finish breakfast and stick with their plan. They often come back with lots of shopping bags. The average length of stay is one week and their favorite destinations other than Bangkok are Pattaya, Chiang Mai, or floating market around Bangkok,’ said Khun Pueng Tirawongkul.
The right technology can help the guest make the most out of their visit. As mentioned above, voice assistants not only make it easier for international tourists to get by in a foreign country, but also take it one step further to personalize the guest experience through recommending activities, restaurants and other services that match the preferences and behaviors of the guests.
With sufficient preparation, the return of Chinese tourists will benefit the economic recovery of the tourism industry in Thailand. In order to fully utilize this opportunity, hotels need to focus on reinventing their services and finding alternatives to better serve large volumes of international guests, such as guests from China, while operating with fewer staff members.
Investments in staff training and the use of new technologies such as voice AI can make services more efficient and improve the guest experience. By implementing digital technologies such as preferred payment options, or implementing AI assistants, hotels will be able to offer a more personalized and seamless experience for the guests.
Overall, understanding the consumer behavior and introducing innovative approaches help hotels handle the staff shortages and make the return of Chinese tourists a win-win situation.
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