Phuket tourism set to take a bigger hit
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Phuket tourism set to take a bigger hit

Arrivals could fall further than forecast

Tourists pose for a picture on Mai Khao Beach in Phuket as a plane lands at Phuket International Airport. (Photo: AFP)
Tourists pose for a picture on Mai Khao Beach in Phuket as a plane lands at Phuket International Airport. (Photo: AFP)

Foreign arrivals to Phuket may plunge to a lower than expected level during the upcoming low season, due largely to the slowdown of the Chinese market and the bankruptcy of an Indian airline.

Thaneth Tantipiriyakij, president of the Phuket Tourist Association, said the temporary closure of Phuket International Airport from 1am until 7am until the beginning of July would hinder flight expansion, particularly from China, which had typically been prioritised for this time slot since before the pandemic.

In light of this, he said China could only rebound by 30-40% compared to the low season in 2019, as travellers could only depend on about 40 available daily flights from China during the day.

The bankruptcy filing of the low-cost carrier Go First last week might affect overall flight capacity from India as the airline offers scheduled direct flights to the island.

Mr Thaneth said the overall tourism market in Phuket is expected to see a recovery rate of just 50% compared with the same period in 2019.

According to Phuket Immigration, Russia, China and India were ranked as the top three markets in April. Russia accounted for about 63,476 visitors, followed by China (46,697) and India (24,897).

To compensate for the potential decrease, Mr Thaneth said tourism operators are pivoting to Middle Eastern markets such as Saudi Arabia, as tourists from that region tend to travel overseas following Ramadan and the Hajj pilgrimage.

Moreover, Thailand is already a popular destination during the rainy season among tourists from that region.

There are also new direct flights connecting Bangkok with Saudi Arabian cities and other major aviation hubs such as Qatar and Dubai.

Mr Thaneth urged the Tourism Authority of Thailand to continue its aggressive marketing expansion to expose Phuket to more Middle Eastern and Asian markets in order to fill the capacity once the airport fully reopens.

To maintain the Chinese market, he said related authorities should deal with the impact of fake news concerning unsafe vacations in Thailand that had circulated on Chinese social media platforms.

He added that the government should put stringent measures in place to eliminate nominee businesses and zero-dollar tours which damage tourism sentiment and the reputation of Thailand.

Mr Thaneth said the association would also look for new opportunities emerging with the new China-Laos high speed train, by targeting high spenders from those two countries who visit Phuket after stopping at Udon Thani and Khon Kaen.

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