Betong pact takes shape

Betong pact takes shape

tourism packages to include flights

An agreement will be signed this week to create leisure tourism packages with travel by air to Betong, says Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn.

Speaking during a visit to the country's southernmost district which ended yesterday, the minister said four parties will come together this week to sign an agreement aimed at increasing Betong's competitive edge in tourism.

The agreement will specify how the four parties -- the airport, airlines, tourism agents and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) -- can assist each other in putting Betong on the tourism map.

Despite the recent opening of Betong's airport, the only commercial airline flying there, Nok Air, has suspended its thrice-weekly flights from Bangkok's Don Mueang airport citing low passenger demand.

The suspension came only two days after Nok Air's inaugural flight. The airline has not indicated when commercial flights will resume. Mr Phiphat yesterday acknowledged the challenge of making the route commercially viable, with the issue of airfare amounts critical.

Earlier, businesses in Betong's tourism sector said they could guarantee 60 seats on every Nok Air flight bound for the airport could be filled if the airline agrees to lower round-trip fares from Bangkok to 5,000 baht, according to the Betong Tourism Association.

The association said tour operators have discussed the offer with the airline, which agreed to a fare of around 6,000 baht. As those tickets now sell for around 7,000 baht, the TAT urged the airline to cover the 1,000-baht difference -- a suggestion Nok Air is mulling over. Without direct air transport, tourists have to fly to Hat Yai and then travel to Betong by car.

The Association of Domestic Travel (ADT) said tour packages to Betong cost around 7,500-8,000 baht if tourists use the Tour Teaw Thai scheme, which offers a 40% subsidy on domestic tour packages. If Nok Air resumes flights to Betong, a package via air would cost around 15,000 baht, the association said.

The ADT asked the government to extend the scheme, which is set to end next month, to maintain the pace of tourism recovery from the pandemic. Tour packages to Betong were among the most popular routes for the Tour Teaw Thai programme.

Meanwhile, Mr Phiphat said he has inspected Thailand by UTMB, a new trail-running event that is part of the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB) series, taking place under the theme of "Amazean Jungle Trail" from May 6-8 in Betong.

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