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Chinese ‘zero dollar’ tour companies dodge Thai crackdown – and travel agencies defend the practice

Welcomed during Thailand’s economic slowdown, such ‘forced shopping’ tours are frowned upon for tainting visitors’ image of country; if ban won’t stop them, the growing trend of individual travel from China may see them die out.

Whenever you go to Thailand these days, hordes of Chinese tourists can be spotted chatting noisily as they queue at Bangkok’s Suvanabhumi airport for visas.

You’ll see them ordering 40 baht (US$1.30) bowls of noodles at roadside stalls, shopping in the malls, and posing for group selfies at temples. They can also be seen checking in at various hotels or sharing photos on their smartphones as they board and disembark from coaches in major tourist destinations such as Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai.

Although the Thai government has been actively courting the Chinese market, as a result of which Chinese visitors made up about 8.7 million of the 34 million tourists to Thailand in 2016 – a 10.3 per cent increase from 2015 – there are a number of factors behind the increased tourist traffic from China.

Full story: SCMP

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