New flights to boost Indian tourists flow to Thailand

February 11th, 2011 - 1:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Tourism Authority of Thailand By Gyanendra Kumar Keshri
New Delhi, Feb 11 (IANS) Over 900,000 Indian tourists are likely to visit Thailand this year on the back of increased air connectivity, liberalised visa norms and development of new destinations such as Chiang Mai in the north, senior officials have said. “Nearly 800,000 Indian tourists visited Thailand in 2010. We expect 15-20 percent increase this year,” Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, director, Tourism Authority of Thailand, told IANS.

He said at least three airlines, including IndiGo, Bangkok Airways and Philippine Airlines, would start new flights between India and Thailand this year.

“Several new flights are likely to start this year. Bangkok Airways is going to start flight to Mumbai from next month. IndiGo will start sometime later this year,” said Ayudhya, adding Philippine Airlines was expected to start flight between New Delhi and Bangkok via Manila soon.

Bangkok Airways is likely to run six flights a week between Mumbai and Bangkok beginning the first week of next month. The privately owned carrier mulls flight to New Delhi and Kolkata also in the near future.

Philippine Airlines is scheduled to start flight between New Delhi and Manila from March 27, the Filipino carrier said in a statement recently. The airline plans to run six flights a week between the two capital, out of which three will be routed via Bangkok.
Ayudhya said India’s largest budget carrier IndiGo was likely to start flight to Bangkok sometime later this year.

“We are developing new destinations for tourism purpose. This along with better connectivity and rising disposable income among the middle class will boost the two way flow of tourists,” said Ayudhya adding the number of Indian tourists to Thailand was likely to cross 1 million mark in 2012.

Last year, 791,185 Indian tourists visited Thailand, of which 60 percent flew for leisure while 40 percent for business purposes.

Ayudhya, who heads Tourism Authority of Thailand’s India operation, said the proportion of first-time visitors has been increasing during the last few years because of a high jump in disposable income of young Indians. “Right now the proportion is 60:40. In a couple of years we expect over half the tourists from India will be first-time visitors.”

However, the number of Thai visitors to India is not that impressive. Nearly 60,000 Thai visited India last year, of which 80 percent were Buddhist pilgrims.

“The main reason behind India witnessing less number of Thai tourists is high cost package — visa fees, air fares and overall transportation and staying cost is quite high here,” Governor of Tourism Authority of Thailand Suraphon Svetasreni, who was on a visit to India, said.

Svetasreni urged Indian government to liberalise visa norms, saying it would help develop tourism industry in the backward Indian states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
He said on the other hand, Thailand offered free visa on arrival, economical hotel tariffs and better connectivity to attract more Indian tourists.

Svetasreni said he was keen to work with tourism authorities in India to ensure flight connectivity, lower air fares and cheaper hotels to make India and Thailand among the most preferred destinations.

Bangkok and Pattaya are the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand attracting over 60 percent of the total visitors. Nearly 30 percent overseas tourists go to Phuket and only 10 percent to other destinations. Thailand is now focusing on development of new destinations like Chiang Mai.

Official said Thailand was positioning Chiang Mai as an adventure tourist destination where people can enjoy river rafting, trekking and four-wheel drive safaris in natural wonderland.

(Gyanendra Kumar Keshri can be reached at gyanendra.k@ians.in)

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