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TAT, biggest Gulf airlines join to keep flow of visitors from ME

The Tourism Authority of Thailand will collaborate with the Middle East's big three air-lines to help maintain a steady flow of visitors from some of Thailand's highest-spending source markets.

During the recent Arabian Travel Market, TAT governor Thawatchai Arunyik and a team of senior executives held back-to-back talks with executives of Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways to explore ways of maintaining the flow of arrivals from these Persian Gulf states.

Over the past few years, these carriers, along with others such as Gulf Air, Kuwait Airways, Royal Jordanian and Turkish Airlines, have played a major role in providing much-needed seat capacity via connections through their hub cities to Bangkok.

Tanes Petsuwan, executive director of the Europe, Africa and Middle East region, said TAT officials had been told by the Gulf airlines that they would maintain this capacity in spite of the Thai political situation.

"Our main focus of attention at the Arabian Travel Market was to help the travel trade better understand the reality on the ground and stress the fact that the overwhelming vast majority of Thailand, including tourism attractions and transportation facilities, are open for business and operating normally," he said.

"The TAT team personally visited all the airline pavilions to meet their senior executives and find ways of helping each other. All the airlines told us that Bangkok was one of their most important points in Asia, and that it was important for them to maintain their route profitability."

Fam trips

The main problem faced by the Thai tourism industry was the continuing travel advisories issued by various governments, he said.

To combat this perception, TAT and the Gulf airlines agreed to undertake a series of familiarisation trips for media and travel agency representatives in the Gulf countries to help them see the situation for themselves and make their own decisions.

These trips will be operated over the rest of the year, with each airline bringing in one group every quarter.

Although there has been a de-cline in visitors from the Gulf countries, TAT is hoping to make up for the shortfall in the coming months and end the year with the same number of arrivals as last year, Tanes said.

"Our main focus continues to be on the niche markets, such as health and wellness, weddings and honeymoons. Gulf visitors are among the highest spenders per capita, with an above-average length of stay."

As of the summer schedule, 98 flights per week are scheduled between Thailand, namely Bangkok and Phuket, and Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha. This comprises Emirates with 35 flights, Qatar Airways with 35 and Etihad Airways with 28.

Visitors from the Middle East countries, including Egypt, Israel, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, totalled 171,323 in the first four months of this year.


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