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Asia tourism reopens with big-spending Chinese stuck at home

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    Asia tourism reopens with big-spending Chinese stuck at home

    Asia’s gradual easing of international travel curbs is proving a welcome relief for the region’s hard-hit tourism operators slowly opening up to visitors from around the world – with one giant exception.

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    China, previously the world’s largest outbound tourism market, is keeping international air capacity at just 2 per cent of pre-pandemic levels and has yet to relax tight travel restrictions as it sticks to zero tolerance for COVID-19.

    That has left a US$255 billion annual spending hole in the global tourism market for operators such as Thailand’s Laguna Phuket to try and fill.

    Managing director Ravi Chandran says Laguna Phuket’s five resorts have shifted their marketing focus to Europe, the United States and United Arab Emirates to make up for the loss of Chinese visitors, who accounted for 25-30 per cent of its pre-COVID business.

    “Up to today, we have not done significant marketing or promotion in China … because we don’t feel anything coming our way,” Chandran said.

    The pandemic has cost Thailand an estimated US$50 billion a year in tourism revenue and Chinese were above-average spenders based on tourism ministry data. Thailand hopes to receive 180,000 foreign tourists this year, a fraction of around 40 million it received in 2019, as it opened places beyond Phuket to tourists on Monday.

    Many experts expect China to keep such stringent measures such as up to a three-week quarantine for those returning home until at least the second quarter of next year and possibly then open gradually on a country-by-country basis.

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