Many tour operators in China are offering packages to Thailand at prices as low as Bt3,600 (S$143) per head, and tourism associations warn that China is returning to "zero-fare" tour packages.
Yutthachai Soonthronrat-|tanavate, president of the Association of Domestic Travel and vice president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, said one travel company in China began promoting packages to Thailand at very low prices a few weeks ago.
Its "buy one, get two free" promotion was scheduled to bring tourists to Thailand from yesterday through next weekend for 1,980 yuan, or about Bt11,000, which means about Bt3,600 per person.
The package includes accommodation, transport and meals, but not air fares.
"If operators continue offering such cheap packages, it will be dangerous for Thai tourism," Yutthachai said.
He said many Thai travel companies focused on the China market believed that cheap "zero-fare" packages were returning to the market.
"Chinese and Thais are working together. They are illegal operators, so they can offer that extra-low-price packages. Without support from locals, zero-fare packages cannot stay," he said.
Tourism associations are urging the government to make more efforts to get rid of illegal tour companies and bring in bigger spenders.
According to the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA), the number of international arrivals to Bangkok's two international airports using its members last year was 5.2 million, up from 3.2 million in 2014, or a 60-per-cent increase.
The top five markets for ATTA last year were China, Russia, India, Vietnam and South Korea. China contributed more than 5 million arrivals. More than 3.2 million used travel agents that were members of ATTA. Up to 8 million visitors from mainland China are expected to travel into Thailand this year.
Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, last week said TAT would concentrate on the China market in order to increase the number of high-spending tourists.
TAT will also boost niche markets such as golfing, honeymoons, wedding parties and long-haul travellers.