Krabi under pressure to open terminal
Krabi tourism operators are pushing for the local airport's third terminal to be completed by June, in order to provide far higher capacity during the high season.
The third terminal was initially due to begin operations in October 2021, but the opening was delayed for six months, said Sasithorn Kittidhrakul, president of the Krabi Tourism Association.
Once construction is complete, the airport's total capacity is projected to double to 8 million passengers per year.
Ms Sasithorn said the region should reap the benefits from more overseas flights after the Test & Go scheme is dropped, but currently only Scoot and AirAsia offer international services at Krabi airport.
A total of 6,759 tourists flew into Krabi's airport from abroad between Nov 1, 2021 and May 5, 2022, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand's Krabi office.
She said related agencies such as the Department of Airports, which supervises the airport, should provide an update on the construction and operations schedule.
Operators raised this concern with the tourism and sports minister and the transport minister during their visits to Krabi.
"The province does not want to lose another high season this year. The international terminal has to be ready by June to let airlines plan routes, which normally take 3-4 months in advance," Ms Sasithorn said.
Local operators expect to see more chartered and scheduled flights from Finnair, which helps bring key source markets to Krabi. She said Finnair and TUI's charter flights operated during the first stage of reopening last year, but had to stop operations because of uncertain border rules and an unprepared airport.
With a fully operational airport, hotels in Krabi can expect at least 50% occupancy in the final quarter, alongside a higher employment rate, said Ms Sasithorn. Potential markets such as Saudi Arabia, India, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia can support tourist flows, she said.
Charintip Tiyaphorn, president of the Tourism Council of Krabi, said opportunities to tap those markets have already been missed.
Operators now have to wait until the next high season, hoping the airport will be ready in time, she said.