Phuket veggie festival spurs airport passengers
PHUKET: The international airport on the renowned tourist island is on course to receive at least 15,000 domestic passengers per day during the resort island's annual vegetarian festival from Oct 16 to 25, to generate about 200 million baht for the ravaged local economy.
About 90 domestic flights are expected daily during the festival, compared with only about 80 flights a day on regular Saturdays, Sundays and long holidays, said Thani Chuangchu, director of the airport, adding the airport handles up to 70 domestic flights on weekdays.
About 13,000 domestic passengers arrive at the airport during weekends and long holidays, Mr Thani noted.
The vegetarian festival marks the first event in a series of local celebrations aimed at luring back tourists amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Phuket, which relies heavily on tourism, has suffered huge economic losses from the Covid-19 crisis after it saw border closures and the suspension of international flights in March.
However, the economic situation is improving, said the airport director, as the island province is soon set to welcome the first group of foreign tourists under the government's Special Tourist Visa (STV) programme.
The STV programme is aimed at long-stay tourists looking to visit the kingdom amid the pandemic.
The airport, in conjunction with disease control local authorities and a government-run biomolecular laboratory, has opened a centre to conduct Covid-19 screenings on foreign visitors, Mr Thani said.
A Public Health Ministry bio-safety mobile unit, a vehicle equipped with bio-safety laboratory equipment for Covid-19 screenings, has been deployed at the airport, he added.
"Phuket airport is 100% ready to welcome local and foreign passengers," the director said.
The airport is equipped with medical staff, equipment and laboratory facilities required to ensure that Covid-19 screenings meet the standards of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT), he said.
There's been a record drop of about 60,000 flights in and out of Phuket airport since the pandemic began earlier this year, Mr Thani said.
The number represents a 48% slump when compared with the same period last year.
The drop amounts to about nine million passengers, 5.1 million of whom would have been foreigners, the director said.
The airport, meanwhile, is pressing ahead with expansion plans to accommodate to up to 18 million passengers per year. Its current Phase 2 stage includes the construction of a check-in hall for tour groups, Mr Thani said.