Thailand joins China in crackdown on cheap travel packages

Photo: Karl Baron/ Flickr

With the constant flow of Chinese tourists into Thailand, the Thai government is aiming to rid itself of the “cheap destination” label by setting standardized online tour prices sold to free independent travelers (FITs).

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports along with representatives of the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) met to discuss illegal tour operators and “zero-dollar” tour packages. This refers to travel packages that are sold at extremely low prices, but present visitors with costly add-ons once they arrive in Thailand, Bangkok Post reported.

Chinese travel companies and online agents sell tour packages at disturbingly cheap prices. Though these have boosted the tourism industry—about 8.7 million Chinese tourists visited in 2016—it damaged the image of Thai tourism, making the country appear as nothing more than a “cheap destination,” according to Thailand’s Online Tourism Club (OTC).

For example, a live show in Bangkok with a price tag of THB1,200 baht can be purchased with a Chinese tour operator for THB500—a fraction of the price.

As a result, the OTC will sign an agreement with Chinese tour operators in August, called the memorandum of understanding, which will touch on (and prevent) the sales of cheap travel packages.

OTC president Nipon Boonmasuwanran says that so far, companies in the agreement include, Lvmama, Taobao, Qunar and Dianping.

With the agreement, 21 travel agencies and 28 attraction operators will be selling packages at the standardized rate. Some of these agencies and operators include the Chiang Mai night safari, ITC Bangkok, as well as the Bangkok Chaophraya Cruise.

In spite of their efforts to protect the tourism industry, Chinese tour operators are still selling packages below their financial worth. This is because the law (of the Department of Tourism) only applies to travel companies, but not online agents.

For better cooperation between Thailand and China, however, the two countries have agreed to exchange data and travel information.

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