News about the opening of China's borders and the upcoming avalanche of Chinese tourists pleases not everyone, even in the tourism sector. Thailand was the first to express concern – there, firstly, they fear that local attractions and beaches will be instantly “flooded” and overwhelmed by this wave. The kingdom is also confident that the Chinese will again bring the coronavirus into the country. Fears about the reopening of China are beginning to be expressed in Russia.
Recall that relief was promised from January 8 – and optimists suggest that China will fully open its borders and abandon strict quarantine for travelers and citizens of mainland China. As commented in the Thai media, on the one hand, this is good news for Thailand, since the pandemic, China has been the No. 1 source of international tourists for Thailand and many other countries in the region. If the Chinese return to their pre-pandemic travel habits, the 2023 forecast will immediately rise from 20 million to more than 25 million tourists, with around 500,000 coming for Chinese New Year alone, the Tourism Authority of Thailand has assured.
However, there are also pessimists. Officially, they fear new outbreaks of covid, despite the fact that an outbreak is now being recorded in China. The head of the TAT, Yuttasak Supasorn, promised to consult with the Ministry of Health to resolve the issue and make sure that the healthcare system in Thailand is ready.
But for other tourists, including Russians, something else is important: the “mechanism” of travel itself may not be ready for a sharp jump in the number of Chinese tourists, experts say. The country's open hotels are close to being filled, closed ones need to be given time to open, and this is not easy due to an acute staffing problem – hotel employees sent to the streets during the lockdowns have already found new jobs. The president of the Hotel Association of Thailand said that hoteliers must be willing to pay higher salaries and incur operating costs to return to work, but not everyone will want that. And the “appetites” of the Chinese are huge: Chinese online tour sales platforms recorded an increase in requests of 850% at the first news of possible indulgences.
In Russia, the return of Chinese tourist flows is also commented mainly by pessimists. Given the shortage of incoming tourists, the Chinese will most likely be provided with special favored treatment. And with them – and the “Chinese tourist mafia”, which in previous years brought a lot of problems to the legal tourist industry. Recall that even at the very beginning of pandemics and lockdowns, Russian experts already assumed that after the stabilization of the situation and the return of Chinese tourist flows, the “tenacious” black market would definitely try to restore its positions again, or even take over the “white” sector of the tourism industry, bled white by the epidemic, because the tourist mafia wants to make up for their losses.
In particular, during the closure, as the well-known orientalist Nikolai Vavilov stated in his telegram channel. At the same time, first of all, the illegal Chinese market of tourist services “only for their own” found itself in a severe crisis. “In recent years, Chinese citizens have bought a lot of apartments in St. Petersburg. In 2019 – by 3 billion rubles. The Chinese used residential real estate for commercial needs – cafes, hotels, brothels, massage parlors. This is contrary to Russian law. And in the current situation, there are no prospects for Chinese illegal business,” the expert explained.
As Yuri Tsurkan, chairman of the Association for the Promotion of Russian-Chinese Tourism (ASRKT), commented to the correspondent of the TURPROM infogroup, the announced figures are difficult to verify However, in recent years, the Chinese tourist mafia has acted very aggressively in Russia indeed. “The announced trend for investing “gray” income in real estate is fully consistent with the criteria of a shadow business that develops networks of various closed-loop services, where cash flows bypass the Russian financial system. And since the shadow business in the field of tourism in the Chinese direction, according to the most conservative estimates, brings about 150-200 billion rubles a year to the beneficiaries, it is possible that shadow companies bought real estate for a couple of billion,” said Yuri Tsurkan. Read the details at this link.
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