The ripple effect of the recent tragic shooting incident at the Siam Paragon shopping mall, which occurred on October 3rd, has led to an urgent outcry from Thai hoteliers and local entrepreneurs in the tourism industry in Chiang Mai for tighter enforcement of gun regulation policies by the Thai government. The cruel hand of fate claimed the lives of three innocent souls that day, among them, a visitor from China. Not to mention the harsh impact of the event, which has left four other victims nursing physical injuries and psychological trauma.
This unfortunate development has sent ripples of unease across the Chinese tourism community, causing a dip in their enthusiasm for visiting Thailand. The aftermath of this incident was a swift and unexpected cancellation of trips by a massive number of Chinese tourists, approximately 60,000, as per various reports.
The figures gathered by the Airports of Thailand bear witness to the impact, as the number of Chinese tourists decreased from a robust 650,000 to a rather grim 590,000. Quantitatively, this is a decrease of 9.2% that happened in the wake of the shooting incident.
Before the onset of the global pandemic, the Chinese held the distinction of being Thailand’s most substantial overseas tourism market component, with around 11 million arrivals marked for 2019. However, the present scenario paints a less rosy picture, with the tourism authorities forecasting a significant downturn to just about 5 million Chinese visitors.
Chiang Mai, a vibrant Thai city famed for its considerable Chinese tourist influx, boasts connections with five prime Chinese airlines, including Juneyao Airlines, Spring Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Sichuan Airlines, and Air China.
In response to the incident, Chutidech Promkaewngarm, assistant manager at the Standard Tour Co Ltd, a leading northern region tour operator, indicated a momentary loss of confidence among their tourism clientele due to the horrifying shooting. He added that not all booked tours by Chinese travel groups were cancelled; many decided to delay their visits. The sentiment reflects among a section of Chinese netizens who have expressed their apprehensiveness towards visiting a country that does not outlaw gun ownership.
Promkaewngarm further shed light on the shrinking number of Chinese tourists, which currently seems hardly halfway towards that of 2019. He attributed this downturn to an amalgamation of factors, including China’s ongoing economic plight and the dreadful Siam Paragon incident.
On the other hand, Somrit Haikum, the managing director at Pacific World Chiangmai, as well as the vice-president of the Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce, vociferously calls for the state to see reason and introduce preventive policies to shun the recurrence of such incidents. Haikum also underscored the necessity of diversifying Thai tourism markets while adopting environment-friendly tourism practices.
Paisarn Sukcharoen, the president of the Northern Thai Hotel Association, too expressed his concerns regarding the effect on tourism. Sukcharoen disclosed that the incident had triggered a 30% delay in hotel bookings and voiced that the government’s action towards stricter gun control regulations could aid the process of restoring trust.
Building on that note, Patthara-anong Na Chiang Mai, director at the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s (TAT) Northern Region, pointed out that the government’s visa exemption policy continues to draw more Chinese and Kazakhstani tourists until its expiry next February. But she was skeptical about the overly sanguine TAT prediction of 5 million Chinese tourists, and instead, projected a count of over 4.2 million Chinese visitors in 2023.