< Is a Chinese Movie Keeping Away Visitors to Thailand?
By Gregory Stachel
17 November 2023

A Chinese movie that shows scams in Southeast Asia could be frightening visitors from China from traveling to Thailand, researchers and data suggest.

The movie No More Bets was released in August. It is about several Chinese citizens who are tricked into taking a work trip to an unnamed Southeast Asian country. Once they get there, the visitors are forced into operating illegal online investments, gambling and digital money called cryptocurrency.

The movie is based on a real-life problem that has increased in recent years. The same month the movie reached theaters, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report on criminal groups. It said criminal groups have forced hundreds of thousands in Southeast Asia into illegal activities.

FILE - Chinese tourists arrive at Chiang Mai international airport in Chiang Mai province in northern Thailand, January 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Wichai Thaprieo)
FILE - Chinese tourists arrive at Chiang Mai international airport in Chiang Mai province in northern Thailand, January 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Wichai Thaprieo)

In China, No More Bets made more than $500 million in the first month of its release. It became the top movie for three weeks in August. And it made the third most amount of money out of films this year.

At one point in the movie, abducted Chinese travelers are traveling in a small vehicle, which drives under a road sign for "Sukhumvit." It is a well-known area in the Thai capital of Bangkok.

Experts say the film should not have a lasting effect on Chinese tourism to Thailand. But it has raised concerns that it could frighten tourists from traveling to Bangkok.

Thailand is not the only country where the movie's success has caused concerns. Cambodia has banned its showing in the country because the Khmer language is shown in the film. And in Myanmar, the country's military administration said the movie hurts the country's image.

Vincent Zhuang used to work for the Robb Report, a publication about the good life, including travel. He still sees Thailand as a good place for Chinese tourists. But he admits bad news can easily keep away some possible visitors.

"I never think this will be a big problem. I have visited Thailand this year by myself. We know Southeast Asia has lots of interesting places, which fit for Chinese market," Zhuang told VOA by email.

The fact that No More Bets is based on true events means something to viewers as well, Zhuang said. There is evidence that the movie may have already had some effect on Chinese tourists visiting Thailand, as arrivals are less than expected.

There have been over 2.2 million mainland Chinese arrivals to Thailand this year through August, government data has found. But Thailand's tourism agency had predicted 5 million Chinese visitors by the end of 2023. That number seems unlikely to be reached by the end of next month.

Other reasons must be considered though.

China has a slowing economy. And flights to Thailand are still not at pre-pandemic levels. In addition to that, a September shooting in Bangkok killed three people, including one Chinese national. Local media reported that 60,000 Chinese tourists canceled their trips to Thailand after the shooting.

I'm Gregory Stachel.

Tommy Walker reported this story for Voice of America. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

scam n. a dishonest way to make money by deceiving people

gamble v. to play a game in which you can win or lose money or possessions : to bet money or other valuable things

abduct v. to take (someone) away from a place by force

tourism n. the activity of traveling to a place for pleasure

viewer n. a person who watches television

flight n. a journey on an airplane

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