Thailand: Ministry to probe attack on tourist
The Tourism and Sports Ministry is rushing to investigate a case involving a Chinese tourist who was assaulted by a travel agent in Phuket after the case went viral, but the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is still hoping to secure 7-8 million tourists from China this year as the first batch of tour groups touched down in the country on Monday.
A viral TikTok clip showed a Chinese tourist being assaulted with a knife by a member of staff at a tour agency in Phuket during an altercation after the agency was unable to return in full a 5,000-baht deposit for a Similan Islands tour package, which a tourist had booked in advance for his group. The tourist claimed the members of the group were instead left stranded at their hotel on the morning of Jan 31, when they were supposed to take the tour.
Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said the ministry had already assigned the Tourist Business and Guide Registration office in Phuket to gather information in order to file a lawsuit against Blue Ocean Travel, the tour agency allegedly involved, which is registered under the Department of Tourism.
Phuket Police already investigated the case and charged the offender with assault causing injury and carrying a weapon, while the tourists returned to China on Feb 2.
The Tourist Police, tourism associations in Phuket and the Tourist Business and Guide Registration office will meet the Chinese consul today to hold discussions about the issue and apologise for the incident.
As the first batch of Chinese tour groups to visit Thailand since the reopening arrived on Monday, Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), said the number of Chinese tourists this year could reach 7-8 million.
The amount would help raise the total number to 30 million this year.
As of Monday, China now allows tour groups to visit 20 countries, including Thailand, after scrapping all quarantine measures for inbound arrivals since last month.
Mr Yuthasak said with an extension of stay for tourists opting for a visa-on-arrival having been extended from 15 to 30 days, and tourist visas extended from 30 to 45 days, Chinese tourists are expected to spend longer in the country.
As the visa measures will end in March, a proposal seeking an extension until the end of this year would be submitted to the cabinet within this month, said Mr Yuthasak.
It will also work with airlines and the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) to increase flights.
However, giving away free flight tickets like Hong Kong may not be necessary for Thailand as demand for airplane seats already soared and many hotels could enjoy high occupancy rate at the moment.
Chuwit Sirivejkul, TAT regional director of East Asia marketing, said the agency will focus more on tour groups by offering unique experience packages as the tour size tends to be smaller.
Mr Chuwit said of 2,000 Chinese arrivals on Monday, 600 were from tour groups, while the number of seats on China routes were 450,000 in the first quarter.
Spring Airlines this month will operate nine flights daily from seven cities in China to Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket, compared to 20 cities before the pandemic, said Cai Wei, vice-president of Spring Group.