Thailand tourism woos industry, travellers with tax-breaks, freebies

June 19th, 2011 - 11:41 am ICT by IANS  

Tourism Authority of Thailand Phuket, June 19 (IANS) In a bid to promote direct flights to its tourist hubs, Thailand is providing tax breaks to airlines to attract more flights to these areas and freebies to passengers like complimentary SIM cards.

“Our plan is to promote direct travel to regional tourist hubs like Phuket. Earlier, travellers had to stop at major cities like Bangkok to come to a place like Phuket,” Bangornrat Chinaprayoon, director of Tourism Authority of Thailand, told IANS in this southern island province of Thailand.

According to Chinaprayoon, the programme under which incentives are being churned out was started in late 2010 and has resulted in substantial increase in tourist inflow in Phuket from countries like India, Indonesia and the Middle East.

Last year, 30,000 Indians visited Phuket, while Thailand as a whole received nearly a million tourists. Both figures were a 25 percent increase year-on-year.

Travellers arriving at the scenic Phuket International Airport can take a visa on arrival and get complimentary SIM cards which has enough balance to make an international call and talk for a minute. It can then be recharged for a bigger amount.

“Bangkok, Pattaya are big cities with a lot of facilities. But to promote tourism here we needed to provide something extra. And that is what we are doing,” said Chinaprayoon.

Aditi Singh, 25, from New Delhi said the free SIM card facility is unique and tourist friendly.

“This is wonderful and unique. I was so stressed on how to contact back home. With a free SIM card at least one of my apprehensions was solved,” she said.

Apart from passengers, the other major beneficiary of the incentive mechanism are the airlines. Carriers flying to smaller airports like Phuket can get discounts on parking, housing and landing charges.

“This programme is called Regional Airports Marketing Incentive Programme and was started in late 2010. This is an incentive-based programme for regional airports under AOT’s management,” Chinaprayoon said.

Under it, incentives are provided to international scheduled airlines, international charters on operating direct flights to regional destinations by reducing landing and parking fees.

Hailing the initiative, aviation experts said Indian airport operators needed to take lessons from the Thai model to increase passenger traffic.

“These are international practices to promote airlines to fly to these places. Indian airports should also take a cue from these initiatives,” said Amber Dubey, director (aerospace & defence) at consultancy firm KPMG.

The initiative recently managed to attract one collaboration with Indian online travel trade major, which launched packages to Thailand on chartered flights.

According to the company, the twice-a-week flight service to Phuket and Bangkok from New Delhi on all Saturdays and Tuesdays on hired Kingfisher Airlines Airbus A320 aircraft has attracted 100 percent bookings till mid-June.

“Well, these initiatives attracted us. I hope they also attract Indian carriers to fly here. They (airlines) should take this advantage because Indians travelling here would increase by leaps and bounds in the coming time,” said Keyur Joshi, chief operating officer and co-founder of

Currently no Indian scheduled carrier flies to Phuket.

“Why should Indians pay such astronomical prices by flying on international carriers, when we have some of the best airlines with most affordable prices in the world,” Joshi queried.

(Rohit Vaid can be contacted at and

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