Thai Air Asia ready to feed the hungry Chinese tourist market
Thailand’s low-cost air carrier, Thai Air Asia, announced plans recently to penetrate the increasingly lucrative Chinese market, aiming to draw more tourists from China to come to Thailand.
Thai Air Asia Chief Executive Officer Tassapon Bijleveld said the airline has taken these steps because it recognises China’s strong economic growth and is well aware the burgeoning middle class is not only one of the largest demographics in the world it is also one with growing spending power and large numbers desire to engage in overseas travel.
Inbound tourism from mainland China into Thailand is a rapidly growing market with around 36 percent of all Thai Air Asia’s customers being Chinese nationals. As more air routes are opened, there is almost total certainty this percentage will grow substantially.
Mr Tassapon noted that about 1.2 million Chinese had visited Thailand between January and the end of August and this number should surpass 1.6 million by the end of the year.
Thai Air Asia is aiming to turn the Chinese market into its largest revenue earner over the next three to four years, despite the worldwide economic slowdown. At present ASEAN consumers are Thai Air Asia’s largest demographic but as more air routes into China become available it’s almost certain this will change in favour of the Chinese.
Mr Tassapon said Thai Air Asia is aiming at adding three to four major Chinese cities to its regular routes every year for the foreseeable future.
The most recent addition is a Bangkok to Wuhan daily service which began in October. Wuhan is the capital of Hubei province in central China.
The next route due to be opened is Bangkok to Xian, an historic city in the north-west of China. Services into Xian began on 16 November.
Thai Air Asia was among the airlines to move from Suvarnabhumi international airport to the revamped Don Muang international terminal at the start of October.
The airline currently has 21 aircraft in its fleet with plans to add more as and when new routes open and become profitable to justify expansion.
At present Thailand is a favoured destination among Chinese travellers. In surveys it appears the top two attractions for the average mainland Chinese visitor to Bangkok are the Ma Boon Krong (MBK) Shopping Centre and the Chatuchak Weekend Market.
The third most popular attraction for the Chinese is Pattaya. The move of Thai Air Asia to Don Muang airport might well have a short-term negative affect on Chinese travel to Pattaya, given the added distance. Then again, those Chinese who arrive on pre-paid and organised package tours will still be seen in probably ever-increasing numbers in the seaside resort.