PHUKET, Thailand, Jan 22 (Reuters) – Hitting the white sand beaches and eating mango sticky rice and seafood, Chinese tourists are returning to Thailand for their first trips abroad since China ended its strict COVID-19 curbs and reopened its borders.
“Because of the pandemic, we hadn’t been out of China for three years,” said tourist and business owner Kiki Hu, 28, in Krabi on Thailand’s southwest coast. “Now that we can leave and come here for holiday. I feel so happy and emotional”.
With China celebrating the Lunar New Year, Asia’s tourist hotspots have been bracing for the return of Chinese tourists, who spent $255 billion a year globally before the pandemic. Countries from Thailand to Japan had depended on China as their largest source of foreign visitors.
Beijing in December abruptly dropped some of the toughest COVID restrictions on earth, which had battered the world’s…