With foreign tourism income running at just over half the level seen in 2019, Thailand’s tourism industry is moving fast to attract more tourists and flight connections to regain lost ground.

From December 15th, outbound passengers from Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang Airports in Bangkok will be able to exit Thailand through self-service channels in a move announced on Wednesday by the Immigration Bureau to speed up traffic within Bangkok’s leading airports. At the same time, the Airports of Thailand (AOT), on Tuesday, announced swingeing discounts for airlines planning on opening up new routes to and from Bangkok and other Thai international airports as the country is still climbing out of the hole created by the pandemic shutdown in 2020.

The Commander of Immigration Bureau Division 2 Police Major General l Choengron Rimphadee announced that from December 15th, self-service facilities at Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Mueang Airport will be available to outbound passengers on all passports.

Thailand’s Immigration Department has announced that the use of automatic departure channels from Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang Airport will be extended from December 15th to all outgoing passengers.

The move comes as part of an effort by authorities to make the Kingdom’s airports more competitive to improve services to foreign travellers with foreign tourist numbers expected to disappoint this year with approximately 27 million arrivals or only 68% of the number seen in 2019, the last full year before the pandemic shutdown from which the foreign tourism sector has yet to fully recover from.

Immigration Bureau Division 2 boss announces the extension of outbound self-service processing to all passport holders from December 15th in Bangkok

The announcement about automatic channels for exiting the kingdom was made on Wednesday by Police Major General Choengron Rimphadee, the Commander of Immigration Bureau Division 2.

Currently, the self-service automatic outbound processing channels are only in use for passport holders from Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore. 

Major General Choengron explained that the move is now possible because of improvements in computer programming within the Immigration Bureau and the introduction of new regulations about departing visitors to the country.

The goal of the measure is to increase the throughput of passengers leaving the main airport with a current rate of 5,000 per hour to 12,000 after the new regime becomes effective next month.

Thai Airports and Immigration aiming to become more efficient and less congested as the government continues to push for higher foreign tourism numbers

The senior immigration bureau officer said that more automatic exit channels will be installed at Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang Airports. 

The Bureau is currently working on providing these extra channels to cope with the anticipated demand with the Immigration Bureau working to help ease any bottlenecks. 

It is expected that the measure will also ease congestion in Bangkok’s main airports.

Flight connectivity dogs tourism recovery as Immigration Bureau warns travellers of delays

The news on Wednesday comes after Tuesday’s announcement by the Airports of Thailand (AOT) that it was slashing airport fees for airlines to boost flight connectivity to the kingdom. 

Increased flight connectivity is the target as Airports of Thailand (AOT) offers discounts to world airlines opening up new routes to and from Thailand 

This has been identified as a major barrier to Thailand reaching the same level of tourist traffic that it had when the country closed its airspace suddenly in April 2020 because of the COVID pandemic.

Current estimates suggest that flight connectivity is still only reaching 70% to 75% of that which was seen at that time. 

The announcement on Tuesday came from Mr Sirot Duangrat, Executive Vice President of the Airports of Thailand (AOT). The senior executive said the measures had been introduced after discussions with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and would apply to six AOT airports dealing with international passengers. 

Discounts on landing and takeoff charges per passenger as well as ground handling fees for aircraft at 6 international airports on offer for new flights

Furthermore, he explained that there would be two types of discounts made available to airlines.

One would be aimed at airlines operating new flight routes between the country’s international airports and other points of origin and destination. 

At length, AOT will be offering airlines a 95% discount on aircraft storage fees and air bridge services for the first year of such new flights, while in the second year, the discount will be reduced to 75%.

In addition, passenger fee discounts will apply from the 1st of November 2023 to the 31st of October 2025 in respect of such new flight routes.

Thereupon, the AOT will offer a discount on each passenger in respect of landing and takeoff charges of ฿175 per head, provided this discount does not exceed 75% of the new flight’s total take-off and landing service charge.

Minister of Transport orders every effort to boost the country’s visa waiver schemes introduced since September which have gotten off to a slow start

This take-off and landing service charge discount will only be applied from the 1st of November 2023 to the 31st of March 2024. 

The AOT executive also explained that it was working to comply with instructions from the new Minister of Transport, Mr Suriya Jungrungruangkit, who has instructed the airline to expedite all projects relating to making the country’s visa waiver programmes in respect of countries such as China, Taiwan and India which are currently in effect.

Move to boost the tourism sector with worrying signals near the start of the country’s high season

Even though this campaign has been running since the 25th of September and will run up until the 29th of February 2024, there are fears that it may not be enough with the lacklustre numbers seen so far.

Arrivals this year generated just over half the level of income spent in 2019 with Malaysian, Chinese, Russian and South Korean tourists leading the way

Regardless, it is hoped both Airports of Thailand (AOT) measures announced today will incentivise 120 airlines that currently fly into AOT’s six international airports and therefore increase flights.

 ‘We believe that there will be additional flights during the winter flight schedule running from the end of October to March 2024. We can achieve a 25% increase from the current 194,517 flights already confirmed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT). In addition to the discounts on offer, we can confirm that any proposed flights will expect to be approved by the Civil Service Commission within 7 days.’

‘Currently, the country still has vacant flight slots. These slots are at particular times, namely 11 am to 3 pm, 7 pm to 9 pm and 2 am to 5 am. The new measures being announced will see the Airports of Thailand (AOT) losing approximately 20% of our income on this activity. However, I believe that the results received for the country will more than justify the cost. Especially the income that these measures will generate in respect of the airline industry and increased employment in the tourism sector,’ said Mr Sirot announcing the measure to boost flights.

Thailand welcomed 22,622,522 foreign tourists up to November 6th spending a total of ฿954.239 billion, just over half the figure seen in 2019.

In October, the country of origin sending the largest number of tourists was Malaysia followed by China, Russia, India and South Korea.

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