Thai crackdown on 'zero dollar' Chinese tours hits Golden Week
By Orathai Sriring and Pairat Temphairojana
BANGKOK (Reuters) - A Thai crackdown on cheap tour packages for Chinese tourists has hit arrivals in Thailand during China's peak "Golden Week" holiday, and dimmed prospects for an important sector in a sluggish economy.
China's Golden Week break, which started last Saturday, sees millions of Chinese tourists traveling to overseas holiday spots including traditional favorite Thailand.
But Thailand's military government says the packages, known as "zero dollar" tours aimed at Chinese tourists on a budget, are tarnishing the country's image and the tourist police have moved to shut them down.
The tours involve Chinese visitors paying Thai-based operators low prices for their package holiday.
But once in Thailand, they are often pressured into buying overpriced food, accommodation and gifts, said industry experts.
Police Major General Surachate Hakparn, commander of the Tourist Police Division, said police had shut three companies operating "zero dollar" tours and had seized 2,155 tour buses.
Arrest warrants have been issued for nine people involved in the tours as of Oct. 6, he said.
Ruengdet Amorndetphakdee, owner of the D Land Holiday Co., Ltd, which caters to Chinese tourists, said the crackdown had made travel to Thailand more expensive for Chinese visitors. Continued...