The Ministry of Tourism and Sports (MOTS) has met urgently to prevent the resurgence of the zero-dollar tour, fearing that the plans will sabotage the country’s upcoming tourism revenue.

Arrun Boonchai, permanent secretary of MOTS, told Prachachat Business that following the opening of the Chinese border to international travel without restrictions on February 6, 2023, the ministry has discovered several travel agencies from China advertising travel packages that are significantly below the cost of operation, a tactic known as the ‘zero-dollar tour’.

As it turns out, most travel packages are lower than the current operating costs. The ministry suspects that these types of packages will increase.

The constant problems with tourists being lured into a particular souvenir shop or lacking security are also due to the zero-dollar tour. In some cases, the transactions take place in advance, suggesting that the operators must have planned to enrich themselves.

MOTS reports that the Chinese authorities are also aware of the situation and are concerned and have asked Thailand to protect Chinese tourists on 3 points: 1. quality of tourists, 2. safety and 3. experience of the trip, not just for shopping.

“Previously, the Thai government had spoken with the Chinese government and agreed on an initial price for a travel package, as China also wanted to address business misconduct,” said Arrun.

He added that the main problem is everything is linked together like a chain. The zero-dollar tour operators own a restaurant, a jewelry shop or a hotel. This problem has cost Thailand THB 3 trillion (87.300 billion U.S. dollars), which has gone to nominee investors or those outside the country.

Jaturon Phakdeevanich, director general of the Department of Tourism MOTS, said the department will work hand in hand with other stakeholders to share documents on the erring individuals and companies to resolve the issue.

He added that the department will register all travel agencies for Chinese clients. If any agency fails to maintain its licence, it will be removed from the ‘list of travel agents (affiliates)’. The list will then be forwarded to all authorities for verification and advertised to clients.

Moreover, the Chinese government has urged its citizens to buy travel packages from a registered travel agency and not from a cheap travel where, in some cases, more money is charged later.

The Chinese government is ready to investigate the matter. If the authorities find any illegal businesses, they will prosecute them, as this problem is sabotaging the tourism industry of both countries.

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