Chinese women fuel Thai tourism boom
Chinese women fuel Thai tourism boom
But last year for the first time, the country drew more women tourists than men as a surge in Chinese female visitors outweighed a longstanding distortion spurred by men drawn to the world’s “sex capital.”
The shift is welcome news for Thai authorities, who have tried to promote the country’s shopping, beaches and temples and to minimize the importance of sex tourism, which thrived after Thailand became an R&R hotspot for US troops in the 1960s and 1970s.
Tourism ministry figures reviewed by Reuters showed 52 percent of more than 32 million visitors last year were women.
That compared to 48 percent in 2015 and only 42 percent in 2012. No earlier official data were available, but research from as far back as the 1980s shows a ratio of about 60 percent male to 40 percent female visitors.
“Not as many women visited Thailand because they thought we were a cheap destination with too much vice, but now more are coming, which means our image accommodates them,” Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul told Reuters.
Tourism accounts for around 12 percent of Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy and is easily the fastest growing sector, particularly since a coup in 2014.
Hoping to attract more female tourists, the state’s Tourism Authority of Thailand started a “Women’s Journey” campaign last year, with a website and mobile application offering discounts for hotels, spas, malls, and restaurants.
But the biggest factor has been tourism from China, which has reshaped the industry around the world.
The number of Chinese visitors rose from nearly 12 percent of Thailand’s visitors in 2012 to 27 percent last year. The number of Chinese women visiting Thailand nearly quadrupled over the same period to more than 5.3 million.
“When Chinese men make a lot of money, they tend to take their wife, daughter, and mother to travel, making the ratio heavier on the female side,” said Virat Chatturaputpitak, vice president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents.
Major Chinese travel website Tuniu reported that 62 percent of its customers last year were women, Chinese media reported.
“I chose to come to Thailand because it’s close by, there are many flights, it’s cheap to travel and easy to get a visa,” said Man Na Zhang, 24, at Bangkok’s Erawan Shrine, a favorite spot for Chinese tourists despite a deadly bombing in 2015.
Chinese female visitors, who get a tourist visa on arrival, also cited a simple tax rebate procedure on duty free goods as another drawcard as they snap up items such as cosmetics, bottled bird’s nest soup, vitamins and supplements.
Many stores in Bangkok’s shopping malls now accept Alipay, China’s giant online payment service. A Big C supermarket near the Erawan shrine buzzes with Chinese tourists who fill their trolleys with bulk packets Tom Yum Goong flavored instant noodles, crispy seaweed and dried squid snacks.
Businesses in tourist towns have started printing menus in Chinese and getting workers to learn the language to cater to Chinese tourists, who last year made up more than those from Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and Africa combined.
China’s recent “Golden Week” holiday brought 70 percent more Chinese visitors than last year, the tourism ministry said.
Bride chooses Elie Saab as ‘Game of Thrones’ stars wed
DUBAI: Former “Game of Thrones” co-stars Kit Harington and Rose Leslie married Saturday with a church service and a celebration at the bride’s ancestral castle in Scotland.
Leslie looked ethereal in an ivory lace and tulle gown by Elie Saab, with a white floral headpiece worn under a whimsical veil.
The couple and guests arrived for the afternoon service at Rayne Church, close to the 900-year-old Wardhill Castle in northeast Scotland, which is owned by Leslie’s family. Harington, wearing a morning suit, and Leslie smiled at members of the public who had gathered outside the church.
Guests included the pair’s “Game of Thrones” co-stars Peter Dinklage, Maisie Williams, Sophie Turner and Emilia Clarke, AP reported.
Leslie was walked into the church by her father Sebastian Leslie, an Aberdeenshire councilor and the chief of the ancient Leslie Clan, who wore a traditional Scottish kilt.
Later, the newlyweds were showered with rose petal confetti as they left the church and drove off in a Land Rover festooned with “Just Married” signs to a reception on the castle grounds.
Harington and Leslie, who are both 31, met in 2012 on the set of the HBO fantasy series, where they played a couple as the characters Jon Snow and Ygritte. Leslie left the cast in 2014 and currently stars in US legal drama “The Good Fight.”
Harington credits Iceland as the backdrop to the beginning of their love story.
“Because the country is beautiful, because the Northern Lights are magical and because it was there that I fell in love,” he told L’Uomo Vogue last year. “If you’re already attracted to someone and then they play your love interest in the show, it’s becomes very easy to fall in love.”
In an interview with The Telegraph in June 2016, Leslie opened up about the relationship.
“He’s not a confrontational person so we don’t ever blow off steam,” she shared. “(He’s) a great man. I’m very proud of him. There’s an understanding that comes with the job, an understanding of being busy and when you have to say, ‘Sorry, I’m just going to bugger off for two months to film.’”
The couple announced their engagement with a notice in the Times of London newspaper in September.
“The engagement is announced between Kit, younger son of David and Deborah Harrington of Worcestershire, and Rose, middle daughter of Sebastian and Candy Leslie of Aberdeenshire,” the announcement read.
“We are absolutely thrilled for Kit and Rose to be marrying today,” Leslie’s father told assembled reporters before the ceremony. “It’s an absolutely lovely day for us.”