Costa Rica faces stiff competition from Thailand for Chinese tourists

Costa Rican tourism officials are seeking to attract Chinese visitors. They’re not alone.

Thailand also is making moves to attract more upscale visitors from China.

A wire service report said that Thailand suffered bad publicity about martial law, backpacker killings and police shakedowns of foreigners.

Martial law remains in effect. That, and publicity overseas about tourists being victims of serious crimes on resort islands, police shaking down foreigners in the capital and taxi drivers overcharging fares, have combined to give many potential tourists second thoughts about visiting, said the news reports.

Known as the Land of Smiles, Thailand hopes to put a happy face on the sector again this year and greet 28 million visitors, which was the numerical goal last year, said the wire service report. In 2014, the total number of actual visitors was 26 million.

It’s still a stunning total from the turn of the 21st century, when Thailand struggled to attract more than 10 million visitors annually, the report said. The total exceeded 15 million for the first time in 2010 and surged above 20 million in 2012. But the country also is trying to shed its reputation as a backpacker haven. The government is behind the push.

China is now the largest single source of visitors to Thailand. The Chinese are considered the best spenders per capita on a daily basis. But their growing influence is not without controversy.

During this week’s Chinese New Year period with 90,000 visitors from China expected — many are receiving etiquette guides.

Tthailand021915he brochures explain how to behave in museums and at temples, encourage proper rules for driving and warn against using public property as toilets.

By contrast, Costa Rica received 7,017 Chinese visitors in 2014, according to figures provided by the Instituto Costarricensee de Turismo. That number was about a 6 percent dip from 2013.

Meanwhile, Costa Rican officials are lobbying for direct airline flights from China and have opened up a new consulate to process visa requests.

Thailand is also popular with Malaysian, Japanese, Russian and South Korean visitors. But there has been a notable drop-off in Russian tourists with the ruble’s recent plunge in value.

A weakening euro against the Thai baht is blamed for a decline in visitors from European countries.

To make up for that slump, a special push is being made by the Association of Thai Travel Agents to boost the number of visitors from Indonesia, as well as from China.

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