Nok Air readies aircraft in preparation for welcoming plan

Nok Air readies aircraft in preparation for welcoming plan

Tourism-related operators are preparing to reinvest for the first time in almost two years as they expect a dramatic surge from the international market after the removal of quarantine and area restrictions for some countries.

Wallapa Traisorat, chief executive and president of SET-listed Asset World Corp (AWC), said the return of foreign arrivals would create positive momentum for the tourism industry.

"Quarantines limit the number of foreign tourists," she said.

"If no quarantines are required, the recovery in global demand should be dramatic, similar to the US at the moment, as its recovery pace is even faster than in 2019."

At present, more than half of Phuket sandbox arrivals were those who opted for this option instead of enduring a quarantine in Bangkok, according to the Tourism and Sports Ministry.

The number of foreign tourists looking for a leisure trip in Thailand is still very limited.

Nok Air chief executive Wutthiphum Jurangkool said the airline has already prepared for the reopening on Nov 1 by resuming more domestic flights and hiring more crew for the first time in almost two years.

The airline plans to operate six Boeing 737-800 aircraft to support increasing demand, but the fleet is still awaiting approval from the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand and the Transport Ministry.

He said operators are waiting for further details on the reopening plan, following an announcement from the prime minister Monday on offering quarantine-free entry for vaccinated travellers from at least 10 low-risk countries.

Mr Wutthiphum said the Foreign Ministry should speed up discussions to establish travel bubbles with other countries, allowing both inbound and outbound passengers between nations, creating more opportunities for international flights.

Foreign embassies also need to start preparing more convenient visa procedures for Thai outbound travellers as visa exemptions for many destinations such as Japan were suspended amid the outbreak, he said. This means tourists are required to submit more paperwork for travel abroad.

Nok Air plans to resume international operations by December, starting with independent travellers from China and other countries on the low-risk list.

Mr Wutthiphum said most international flights that were previously set to resume in the second quarter of 2022 will be brought up to the early first quarter, especially those serving Singapore, Malaysia, India, Vietnam and Japan.

"There's certainly a risk of new variants when opening up to the international market, which means the government should tighten its public health system to withstand uncertainty," he said.

"If Thailand faces any delay in reopening, the country might not be able to compete with other destinations that are ready to welcome tourists."

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