Airlines push to upgrade regional Thai airports
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Airlines push to upgrade regional Thai airports

The Airlines Association of Thailand (AAT) has urged the government to elevate more regional airports to become international airports, aiming to generate higher tourism revenue for 55 second-tier cities.

During the "Ignite Tourism Thailand" event chaired by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on Tuesday, AAT president Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth said authorities should develop more regional airports, enabling them to accommodate international flights, which could help attract tourists to nearby provinces.

To offset air travel expenditure, he said airlines proposed the government include expenses for airfare to second-tier cities in the recent tax deduction measures, which the prime minister agreed to consider.

Airlines also want the government announce visa-free policies 2-3 months in advance of their implementation to allow tourists more time to plan and book their flights, said Mr Puttipong.

Previous visa-free announcements provided too little lead time, making tourists more reluctant to book trips to Thailand, he said.

Mr Puttipong said most airlines would like the government to increase air service agreements with the Indian government, as the additional 7,000 seats per week already agreed to is insufficient for all airlines in Thailand.

Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, said the group is concerned about an influx of foreign tour businesses registering in Thailand via nominees, particularly those from China and Russia.

He said the price dumping strategy adopted by these companies is affecting market pricing, becoming a threat to the tourism industry because of substandard services given their focus on low operational costs.

With the government pushing all related authorities to set high key performance indicators, Mr Sisdivachr said intensive sales and marketing campaigns at the business-to-business level are necessary, especially for second-tier tourism provinces, as tour operators can introduce new routes to novel potential markets.

Thienprasit Chaiyapatranun, president of the Thai Hotels Association, said hoteliers want the government to consider launching a subsidy similar to the previous "We Travel Together" scheme focused exclusively on retirees, who have both the time and budget to spend on travel during weekdays.

During the meeting with 55 provincial governors on Tuesday, Mr Srettha said all provinces must improve their infrastructure to cater to growing tourism demand, such as transport and other tourism facilities.

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