Exploitative Chinese tour operations targeted by Tourism Ministry

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The Ministry of Tourism and Sports pledged decisive action against Chinese zero-sum tour operations exploiting Thai nominees to dominate the influx of Chinese tourists by offering significant price cuts, posing a severe threat to local Thai tour operators.

The Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) raised the alarm earlier this week, noting a surge in Chinese tour groups reminiscent of the notorious zero-dollar tours. This surge follows Thailand’s full reopening and a mutual visa exemption agreement with China that took effect on March 1.

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Thailand’s Tourism and Sports Minister, Sermsak Pongpanich commented on the predatory tactics employed by these tour operations.

“These operators pressure and coerce customers into excessive shopping and spending, damaging Thailand’s tourism reputation.”

Sermsak emphasised the severe impact on Thailand’s tourism sector, referencing how these operators snatching businesses away from legitimate Thai tour operators, before further declaring the Ministry’s commitment to prioritising this issue, with the Department of Tourism spearheading the efforts.

ATTA President Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn revealed that tourists on these zero-dollar tours are often forced to spend between 70,000 and 100,000 baht each at affiliated businesses once in Thailand.

Department of Tourism Director-General Jaturon Phakdeewanit announced the formation of a joint command centre to address tourism-related business operations.

This centre, established in collaboration with five other agencies, including the Office of the Permanent Secretary for Tourism and Sports, the Department of Business Development, the Department of Special Investigation, the Tourist Police Bureau, and the Immigration Bureau aims to curb such exploitative practices.

Over the past six months, the joint command centre has inspected all tourist provinces and investigated over 30 tour operators suspected of legal violations. Of these, 10 companies were found to be using Thai nominees to operate businesses akin to zero-dollar tours.

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As a consequence, these companies were ordered to cease operations immediately, with their tour guide permits suspended for five years. Additionally, their foreign employees will face penalties under the Foreign Business Act (1999), reported The Nation.

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