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Thailand and South Korea Act to Woo Chinese Tourists

Alan Woinski
September 5th, 2023 at 7:45 AM EDT

Skift Take

  • Both Thailand and South Korea are implementing strategies to entice Chinese tourists, including visa exemptions, tax refunds, and rewards. Thailand’s response comes after a drop in Chinese tourist arrivals, while South Korea offers incentives like visa fee waivers and cultural experiences.
  • The Philippines establishes a Korea Visa Application Center to handle increased visa requests between the two nations. Travel between Korea and the Philippines has surged, showing potential to surpass pre-pandemic levels.
  • Avani Hotel construction begins in Australia, Accor expands its properties with Novotel Living in Vietnam, and Marriott introduces new properties in Bali and Thailand. Deepak Ohri departs from lebua Hotels and Resorts, while Vaibhav Verma becomes Chief Revenue Officer at juSTa Hotels & Resorts. Ms. Thapanee Kiatphaiboon assumes leadership at Thailand’s Tourism Authority.

Both Thailand and South Korea are aggressively trying to lure back Chinese tourists. The initiatives involve visa exemptions, tax refunds, and rewards for Chinese travelers. The Thai government has introduced visa exemptions for Chinese tourists, with plans for those exemptions to go into effect in October. The move comes as a response to a noticeable drop in Chinese tourist arrivals in the year’s first seven months. The estimate was for 5 to 7 million Chinese tourists in the first seven months. Instead, there were only 2 million. Thailand’s PM has agreed to consider exempting Chinese tourists from visa requirements to address this. South Korea has announced things such as visa fee waivers and tax refunds for Chinese tourists visiting starting in September. South Korea will offer a “K-Culture Bucket List Challenge,” giving Chinese tourists a chance to win passes to events like eSports games, picnics by the Han River, and baseball games. SK is also increasing the acceptance of mobile payment options like WeChat Pay and Alipay. Businesses like K-beauty shops and pharmacies will offer immediate tax refunds. There is no doubt the floodgates never opened for Chinese travelers in the majority of places in Asia. Macau and, lately, Hong Kong are the only locations with higher-than-expected visitation from Mainland China.

The Philippines has opened a new Korea Visa Application Center in Taguig City to handle the volume of requests. The KVAC will receive the applications for all visa types and release the issued visas and passports the Korean Embassy in Manila reviewed. In 2019, some 2.54 million Korean and Filipino nationals traveled between the two nations. In the first six months of this year, that already recovered to 1 million, a 4.7-fold increase from 1H222. Expectations are for the travel to surpass pre-pandemic levels.

Construction on the Avani Hotel, a $250 million, 4.5-star property on the corner of Brisbane Road and First Avenue in Mooloolaba, a coastal suburb in Queensland Australia, will start this month. The Sunshine Coast Council approved the development of the 13-story hotel worth $250 million Australian dollars. The Minor Hotels project will offer a rooftop bar, pool, restaurant, and a conference and wedding venue. The new hotel will feature 189 rooms, four restaurants, meeting and conference facilities, a kids’ club, a gym, a rooftop pool, a bar, a restaurant, and a wedding venue with 180-degree water views.

Accor announced Peppers Gladstone is set to open in mid-2024. Gladstone is about 500km north of Brisbane between the Sunshine Coast and Whitsunday. The hotel will merge Peppers Gladstone with the Mantra Gladstone.

Accor’s Novotel Living extended stay concept has debuted in Vietnam with the launch of Novotel Living Saigon South. This is their second hotel in District 7 of Ho Chi Minh City. The hotel is strategically located close to the Saigon Exhibition and Convention Center. Novotel Living Saigon South features a collection of 175 studio rooms and one to two-bedroom apartments. The property offers an all-day dining restaurant and a sunlit fitness center with a gym, sauna, steam bath facilities, and convenient shared laundry amenities. For corporate guests, the facility includes a choice of three function rooms. 

Amarterra Villa Resort Bali Nusa Dua, Autograph Collection is the second Autograph Collection by Marriott property in Bali and the third in Indonesia. The all-villa boutique resort features 42 traditionally designed villas comprising one, two, and three-bedroom units with private pools, an all-day dining restaurant, Amarta Spa, a fitness center, a dedicated beach area at Nusa Dua Beach, Amarterra by the Bay, and a pool bar and deck area.

Marriott International has expanded its presence in Thailand with the official launch of Madi Paidi, the first new property under the Autograph Collection brand. The hotel is Marriott’s 50th property in Thailand and will be positioned as an upper upscale borderline luxury hotel. The hotel near Thonglor has 56 guest rooms and suites and a signature restaurant. Besides Madi Paidi, Marriott expects several more openings in Thailand to meet the diverse demand of travelers and serve the business needs of the owners who partner with Marriott. Most accommodations were in Bangkok, with a few in tourist destinations like Chiang Mai.

Mondrian Hong Kong will be opening in the 4th quarter of this year, timing with the city’s revival. The hotel will have 324 guestrooms perched high above the bustling waters of Victoria Harbor. The 40th floor includes a rooftop space, a nose-to-tail steakhouse by Dario Cecchini, and one of the first bars in Asia to use the Tayer cocktail workstation system.

Six Senses Kanuhura in Lhaviyani, Maldives, is open with new Beach Retreats and the Reserve. The relaunched resort features 91 beachfront and overwater villas, including 12 new one and two-bedroom Beach Retreats and the three-bedroom Beach Reserve with private pools, steps from the ocean. The resort includes the Grow With Six Senses kids’ club and the Island Hideout. There is a Six Senses Spa, a biohacking lounge, and a selection of restaurants and bars.

Personnel News

Deepak Ohri has announced his departure as CEO of lebua Hotels and Resort, the brand he founded and established as a luxury leader in Southeast Asia. Under his leadership, lebua now has five properties in India, Thailand, and New Zealand. Ohri said his next move is a luxury “hybrid” hospitality brand he will launch in the United States.

Vaibhav Verma has been appointed Chief Revenue Officer of juSTa Hotels & Resorts. His prior position was Chief Revenue Officer at Team Hotels and Resorts, which runs Avataara Resort & Spa in Goa.

Ms. Thapanee Kiatphaiboon has taken the helm of Thailand’s Tourism Authority. The new Governor of TAT has been with the organization since 1999, most recently as TAT Deputy Governor for Domestic Marketing.

Alan Woinski
September 5th, 2023 at 7:45 AM EDT

Companies: Accor, Autograph Collection, Avani Hotels & Resorts, Ennismore, juSTa Hotels & Resorts, Lebua Hotels and Resorts, Marriott International, Minor Hotels, Mondrian, Novotel, Peppers, Six Senses

Locations: Australia, Brisbane, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Maldives, Philippines, South Korea, Thailand

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