PHUKET: Phuket is losing about 2 billion baht a month because of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) panic but Phuket Tourist Association (PTA) President Pattanapong Aikwanich hopes for a quick recovery. He expects the turn-around to begin in July, with increased tourist traffic from Japan, Australia and Singapore. New direct air links from Japan and Australia, coupled with increased Thai tourism, could help to ease the pain. K. Pattanapong said today he had held talks with Thai Airways International and Phuket Airlines about new routes. The Bu-Nga Andaman package, launched a month ago to boost domestic tourism, had already sold 800 packages and could be expanded, he added. “We should have cooperation between the regions. I talked to Wikrom Aryasiri, President of Phuket Airlines, who told me that it’s possible to have direct flights between Chiang Mai and Phuket,” he explained. “Next week we will talk again. I think the answer is packages like the Bu-Nga Andaman, and we will arrange a road show in Chiang Mai or the agents from Chiang Mai will come to Phuket. I expect that a large number of northern tourists will come here.” Sars has led to the cancellation of some flights from Japan but K. Pattanapong said he and Thanong Bidya, Chairman of THAI, agreed that flights could be stepped up again from July. K. Pattanapong has requested that THAI schedule three direct flights weekly from Osaka to Phuket because 20% to 25% of the tourists on the 28 Osaka-Bangkok flights also came to Phuket. “By the end of this year, I think, we will have flights from Osaka to Phuket,” he added. “Thai Airways is also considering scheduling five to seven flights a week from Sydney and Melbourne to Phuket. If we have those flights from Japan and Australia, Phuket’s tourism will improve quickly post-Sars.”
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