NANNING, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- A video showing the Vice President of Thailand greeting the first group of Chinese tourists arriving at Bangkok's international airport after China lifted travel restrictions went viral on the internet.
After reading the news, Zhang Jiajia from South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region immediately booked round-trip flight tickets to the Southeast Asian nation as she felt tourists from China are "embraced with arms wide open."
Zhang is among legions of eager travelers who have put their cross-border travel plans back on the agenda as China relaxed its COVID-19 restrictions, with Thailand being one of the top destinations.
According to the Trip.com Group, among the recent hotel orders booked on the platform for stays longer than 20 days, tours to Thailand accounted for almost half of the total, hitting 44 percent.
The major airport in Nanning has resumed the international passenger routes to five ASEAN destinations, including Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Manila, said Yu Chaolong with the service and marketing department of the airport.
In 2019, more than 10 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand, and an immediate surge of Chinese tourists is expected this year, said Lai Jinpeng. Lai owns a travel agency in Bangkok and added that the company received nearly 15,000 tourists per month on average before the outbreak, most of whom came from China.
"Many companies have reached out to me to book business trips, and charter flight operators contacted me for tailored travel products," said Lai, adding many of his old friends would be back in the business as the tourism sector recovers.
Zeng Lirong, an international tour director and guide for 18 years, is also very excited to embrace the rebound. "I volunteered to fly the first resumed flight, which is from Nanning to Bangkok," she said.
"We are always among those who feel the market in the very first place, and cross-border group tours are expected to go up in March, and by saying that, I mean massive growth," she added.
Industry insiders believe that due to the impact of the pandemic, more cross-border travelers may schedule their group tours after arriving at the destination, along with more changes in shopping and other consumption in the recent period.
However, the rampant virus still poses challenges for the rebound of cross-border travel, such as receiving treatment overseas and repeated infections during the journey.
"Despite the new challenges, I've been missing the old busy days, and this year is likely to be a bumper year," Zeng said. ■