Phuket tourism: TAT targets Vietnam

PHUKET: The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) hopes the establishment of Phuket as a regional air hub will help the country attract more than 400,000 visitors from Vietnam for the first time this year.

Pichai Raktasinha, Director of the TAT office in Ho Chi Minh City, said the number of Vietnamese arrivals in Thailand has risen steadily in recent years, from about 337,000 in 2008 to 362,000 in 2009.

The TAT would like to see the figure crack the 400,000 barrier in 2010, said Mr Pichai.

Currently, Bangkok and Pattaya are the most popular destinations among Vietnamese tourists, but the TAT hopes the direct Phuket – Ho Chi Minh City flights now available on AirAsia will lure independent Vietnamese tourists to Phuket and other destinations in the south, including Phang Nga, Krabi and Koh Samui.

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Thais have also shown interest in Vietnam, with about 160,000 of them visiting the country last year.

Popular destinations include major cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh and Danang as well as Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with karst island formations similar to those in Phang Nga Bay.

Nevertheless, Thai arrivals to Vietnam have been down over the past few months due to political and economic problems at home, he said.

AirAsia marketing manager Chuenjit Chotewittayakul said there were fewer empty seats on flights from Ho Chi Minh City to Phuket than on the return leg.

Roughly half of the inbound passengers are Vietnamese. Most of the remainder are non-Thais entering the country for business or tourism.

AirAsia’s Phuket hub currently offers direct, round-trip services to five international destinations (Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Medan and Ho Chi Minh City) as well as direct domestic flights to Chiang Mai, Udon Thani and Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.

Flights to Phuket are fairly full on all routes except the Medan and Ho Chi Minh City services, which still need more time to gain recognition and popularity, she said.

“We will offer more flights in the future and plan to launch services to India this year. Thai AirAsia expects to service five million passengers in 2010,” she said.

— Atchaa Khamlo

Phuket News
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