Hua Hin looks to reopen
Airport to play prominent role
Hua Hin's reopening plan scheduled to begin on Oct 1 aims to attract tourists arriving by commercial flights and private jets via Hua Hin airport.
Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn said travellers can visit through the Hua Hin Recharge scheme by travelling non-stop in a vehicle from Suvarnabhumi airport or via a transit flight to Hua Hin airport, which Thai AirAsia previously operated prior to the pandemic.
Hua Hin Recharge, which covers an area of 86.3 square kilometres between Hua Hin municipality and Nong Kae district, allows tourists to travel without quarantine once they receive a negative test result upon arrival.
The Recharge area can also receive tourists who spend the first seven days of their trip in the Phuket Sandbox under the 7+7 extension scheme, which is the latest phase of the programme.
Although Hua Hin airport has a short runway only 2.1km in length, it can accommodate both private jets and narrow-body aircraft, including Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 jets, which can travel within a flight radius of five hours.
Mr Yuthasak said if flights between Phuket and Koh Samui, which also has a short runway, can be operated, then flights from Phuket to Hua Hin are also a possibility.
In April, Phoenix Group, a subsidiary under Phoenix Aviation, a Hong Kong-based aviation advisory company, signed a memorandum of understanding with Hua Hin airport to develop the facility for more international direct flights.
Recently Phoenix Group hosted a roadshow to promote the Hua Hin Recharge scheme and seven international airlines from Singapore, Hong Kong, China and India are said to be interested in joining the programme.
Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, minister of tourism and sports, said the ministry is working to procure more vaccines for residents in Hua Hin, which is another critical factor for reopening.
If possible, the ministry would like to include nearby areas or the whole of Prachuap Khiri Khan province for mass vaccination, meaning the area open to tourists can be extended in the near future, he said.
As of Sept 4, residents of the Recharge area who have received their first jab stood at 73.4%, while 24% of the total population of 90,564 had been fully vaccinated.
Prachuap Khiri Khan needs another 11,000 vaccine doses to maintain a high safety level for local communities, said Mr Phiphat.
"The full reopening of Prachuap Khiri Khan and Phetchaburi provinces will be more beneficial to the local economy because Recharge can connect to other provinces along the coastline such as Chumphon and Ranong," he said.
Krod Rojanastien, president of the Thai Spa Association and speaking as a project leader of Hua Hin Recharge, said the occupancy rate for all Hua Hin area hotels, offering 5,042 rooms, is expected to soar to 60% in the fourth quarter, with an average stay of 3.99 days.