Betong operators seek Nok Air deal

Betong operators seek Nok Air deal

Locals take pictures at Betong airport.
Locals take pictures at Betong airport.

Tourism operators plan to offer Nok Air a guarantee of 75% on seat bookings and want to negotiate with the airline to slash airfares in order to resume operations at Betong airport by April 1, targeting Malaysian arrivals via land borders who want direct flights to Bangkok.

Narin Ruengwongsa, vice-president of Betong Tourism Association, said operators will help secure 75% of overall seats, or 64 seats for each Betong flight, to sustain operations at this new airport.

Tourism operators would like round-trip airfares, which currently cost around 7,000 baht, to be reduced to 5,000 baht to maintain competitiveness.

He said tourism associations in Betong, the Tourism Council of Thailand and the Association of Domestic Travel will have a meeting with Nok Air on March 21.

"The flight suspension has affected tourism confidence. We want Betong flights to resume in April to facilitate Malaysian tourists visiting Betong by land during the tomb-sweeping festival. We want more convenient choices to travel to Bangkok," said Mr Narin.

Teerapol Chotichanapibal, Nok Air chief commercial officer, said travel agents selling tickets to Betong asked to postpone ticket sales for two to three months to monitor the virus situation and market sentiment.

The airline cannot decide yet on when to resume Betong flights, he said.

"With lukewarm demand for the Betong route, we have to actively promote Betong from now," Mr Teerapol said.

He said the airline sees potential in the Betong route, which could save travellers more than 10 hours by train or bus.

If the Betong route can attract just 5% of the passengers using land transport or Malaysian tourists, the route would be sustainable, said Mr Teerapol.

Last Monday, Nok Air commenced its first commercial flight to Betong with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on board.

Navaporn Chuachomket, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand's Narathiwat office, said Yala is more famous among local tourists thanks to new tourist attractions, such as Ai Yerweng Skywalk that welcomes around 10,000 locals on weekends. Local communities will promote Na Kor hot spring as another attraction, she said.

Ms Navaporn said the Betong-Bangkok route is a good choice for tourists with limited time who can afford to pay for the convenience.

Prior to the outbreak, Yala received 689,938 tourists generating 3.3 billion baht. Of the total, 145,191 were Thais, while most international arrivals came from Malaysia. Domestic tourists tallied 229,555 last year contributing 567 million baht.

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