PHUKET: The Phuket Tourist Association is expecting more visitors from India after an Indian budget airline yesterday began direct flights to the resort island.
Indigo Airlines is operating the new service between Delhi and Phuket six times a week, using an Airbus A320.
Phuket is the second Thai destination for the low-cost carrier, which already flies the Kolkata-Suvarnabhumi airport route.
Association vice-president Rangsiman Kingkaew said a delegation would go to India to promote Phuket as a destination for people from the subcontinent.
He expects tourist arrivals from India to grow by at least 10% by the end of this year.
Mr Rangsiman did not elaborate on the annual number of Indian visitors.
However, the Phuket Office of Tourism and Sports said Indians were among the top 10 most common tourists, with 8,431 visiting the province last month.
Overall, according to the Tourism and Sports Ministry, there were 1.25 million foreign arrivals from India in the first nine months of this year, up 11% from the same period of last year.
They made up the fifth largest group of visitors from Asia -- after China, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. There were 122,940 Chinese visitors last month, followed by 52,366 Russians and 25,125 Australians, the office said.
The new Indigo Airlines Delhi-Phuket route launched yesterday with the first flight landing at 6.40am, before the return flight departed at 7.40am.
The Airbus A320 has a seating capacity of 320, and took 180 passengers to Phuket on its first flight.
The service runs every day except on Wednesdays.
Kanyarat Sutthipattanakij, deputy director of the Phuket International Airport, said the launch of the route not only provides more convenience to Indian tourists, but also exposes Phuket to a larger group of foreign tourists.
The country experienced a drop in tourists this year, mainly due to falling numbers of Chinese visitors after the sinking of the tour boat Phoenix during a storm in July, in which 47 Chinese tourists drowned.
Among other measures to promote tourism in Thailand, electronic visa-on-arrival services are now in operation at three major airports: Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang and Phuket airports, and will soon be available at two others, according to the Immigration Bureau.
Visitors can use the E-VOA service on the e-Visa Thailand website from one to 30 days prior to their arrival in the kingdom, and pass through the special lanes in about a minute rather than having to line up for an hour or more.
They can fill in the forms and pay the visa fees in advance.
The service is available to visitors from 21 countries including India.