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Sky High Race: How Thai Airlines Plan to Trap a Whopping 35 Million Tourists – Is Your Next Destination On Their Radar?

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As we inch closer to the tail end of 2024, airlines are hastily revving up, eager to kickstart new routes. The anticipation is palpable as they prep for the demand surge in the fourth quarter’s peak season.

Leading the charge is the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). It has set sights on the burgeoning “CIA” market, an acronym for China, India, and Asean countries. The strategy aims to reel in a cool 25 million tourists this year, with high hopes for a rise to 35 million tourists in the forthcoming year.

Regional airlines aren’t left behind; they’re plotting to service these destinations too. Take, for example, the regional budget carrier, Thai Lion Air, which has unveiled plans to bounce back with six direct flights daily from Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport to half a dozen destinations in China: Guangzhou, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Xi-an. These flights are equipped with B737-800 and B737-900ER aircraft and are expected to make a debut on August 15, with flights from China launching the following day.

Responding to tourists’ demands, Thai Lion Air has also decided to bring back its Tokyo (Narita) from Bangkok (Don Mueang) route, with a layover in Taipei, starting August 16. This route will have five flights every week, with promotional ticket prices starting from 3,995 baht per flight.

EVA Airways joined the promotional-charge, with July 27 seeing Clay Sun, executive vice-president, announcing an intent to partner with TAT to promote Thailand as a go-to tourist destination globally. Notably, it offers 28 direct flights per week from Bangkok to Taipei, and several flights to China, Japan, and Seoul, among others.

The TAT is keeping an eagle eye on the Indian airline market, recognizing that Indian travellers often opt for Indian airlines. Pre-pandemic, ten airlines provided direct flights from 13 Indian cities to Thailand, translating to about 300 weekly flights ferrying approximately 62,000 passengers.

Nevertheless, post-covid, only nine airlines currently offer180 direct flights per week from 10 Indian cities, summing to around 39,000 passengers and an average load factor of 70-75%. We could potentially see a new addition to the mix, with the upcoming Indian airline, Akasa Air, planning to commence operations by this year’s end.

In the Asean market, airlines are gearing up to resume routes. For instance, Nok Air is all set to restart flights to Singapore, noting that the situation between the two countries is almost back to normalcy. During this year’s first half, Singaporean tourists in Thailand numbered 439,239, ranking ninth among foreign visitors, the majority of whom were fully independent travellers (FIT).

Air Asia has plans brewing to begin flights from Bangkok’s Don Mueang to Cebu, Philippines, in response to demand from Filipino travellers. The TAT hopes to draw 300,000 Filipino tourists in 2023, considering the first six months of this year already saw 196,114 tourists.

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s low-cost airline, MYAirline, is contemplating offering international day flights from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok’s two airports – Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang. The airline’s ambitious plans also involve offering routes to Phuket, Chiang Mai, Krabi, and Samui, with details anticipated to drop soon.

Currently, eight airlines offer a total of 256 flights every week between Thailand and Malaysia. Further, Malaysia tops the foreign tourist group with a whopping 1.90 million visitors to Thailand in the first half of this year alone. Exciting times lie ahead in the airline industry as these plans take flight!

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