Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bangkok's status as air hub suffering

Bangkok - Bangkok's status as an aviation hub for South-east Asia has suffered significantly from the closure of its two airports by protestors last year, with air capacity down 30 per cent, the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) has revealed. "When the Bangkok airports were closed last year, the airlines had to find alternative routes so they flew out of Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong," PATA President Greg Duffell said Wednesday night at the Foreign Corrspondents Club of Thailand. "And 30 per cent of that air capacity hasn't come back."

Bangkok's two international airports, Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang, were shut down on November 26 to December 3 last year by anti-government protestors.

The closure cost Thailand's billions of dollars in forfeited revenue off tourism and exports.

Partly because of the closures, that left an estimated 140,000 international tourists stranded in Bangkok, overall tourist arrivals to Thailand in the last quarter of 2008, tumbled 28 per cent, the steepest drop in Asia, according to PATA data.

The closure has also reduced Bangkok's status as a hub for air traffic, especially to Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

"Airlines have found that Malaysia is offering free landing fee, Singapore is paying airlines to land and Hong Kong offered some sort of incentives for them to land there, so they have found there are better alternatives to Thailand," Duffell said.

PATA has estimated that while total tourist arrivals in the Asia-Pacific is likely to grow about 2 per cent this year, Thailand will underperform the region.

"Our prediction is that Thailand will have zero growth, or maybe negative 1 to 2 per cent growth," the PATA president said.

"There is still a lack of confidence in Thailand," Duffell said, referring to the airport closures. "It was only ten days but it will probably take ten years to get over that incident."

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