All smiles for local link partners

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BANGKOK, 28 September 2018:  The Tourism Authority of Thailand is partnering with Thai Airways International, Thai Smile and Krungthai Bank to boost travel to “55 secondary destinations” across the country.

We are left guessing about how it works, but the quartet calls the promotion an “impressive alliance” to launch new ‘Local Link’ tours through a dedicated e-payment gateway. The campaign scheduled for the last quarter of 2018 will be up and running this weekend.

We have to assume that the e-payment gateway is for Krungthai Bank customers and credit card holders. They are probably in line for travel goodies if they buy a discounted fare.

Smiling partners, from left: Sumeth Damrongchaitham, THAI president & CEO; Yuthasak Supasorn, TAT governor; Payong Srivanich, Krungthai Bank president and executive director; and Charita Leelayuth, THAI Smile acting president.

But that is conjecture as the announcement leaves many questions unanswered. One of them being the identity of hotel partners?

Another question would focus on how the two airline partners can deliver travel to 55 secondary destinations.

Thai Airways International’s network doesn’t reach any secondary destinations having forfeited all domestic destinations beyond the gateways, Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai.

Thai Smile has a wider domestic network, but far from what would be needed to transport travellers to 55 destinations.

The campaign promotes travel to domestic destinations during the peak travel months October through to December, when in fact it should be promoting travel during off-peak months when hotels and resorts in most destinations need bookings desperately to survive.

TAT expects domestic travel to grow by 5% to reach 60.33 million trips for the period January to September this year, generating THB165 billion an increase of 9%. But rough estimates suggest that domestic travel dominates most secondary destination in excess of 80% of all arrivals and in some instances 90%.

According to TAT, currently the country’s top five secondary cities are Buri Ram, Phatthalung, Mae Hong Son, Pattani and Ratchaburi. None of these highlighted destinations are served by the two campaign airlines.

A check of the so called  “top secondary cities” shows that Phathalung, located in South Thailand on the Gulf of Thailand, doesn’t have an airport. Travellers have to fly to the nearest airport at Trang, 66 km away on the Andaman Sea coast.

Pattani in deep-south Thailand bordering Malaysia does have an airport, but currently it is closed to all commercial flights due to the presence of the Royal Thai Air Force’s counter-insurgency unit.

Ratchaburi, too, is without an airport, but it is just a short 80 km drive from Bangkok and a popular province for day trips to Damnuen Saduak’s floating market.

That leaves Mae Hong Son in the far northwest corner of Thailand that certainly does have an airport, but not served by the two partner airlines.  Nok Air offers a daily direct flight from Bangkok at a roundtrp fare of USD153.

In northeast Thailand, Buri Ram is famed for its football stadium and motor sports circuit as well as ancient heritage sites. A popular destination for domestic travellers, the city is served by Nok Air (three daily flights) and Thai AirAsia (four daily flights). Fares start at USD41 roundtrip. No sign of Thai Smile or THAI on that popular domestic route either.

Thai Smile flights that are included in the TAT-led promotion are Chiang Rai, Hat Yai, Krabi, Khon Kaen, Narathiwat, Surat Thani, Ubon Ratchathani and Udon Thani. It serves Phuket and Chiang Mai, two gateway destinations also served by THAI. They also figure in the promotion.

Under the partnership, there are three tour categories to choose from.

Majors with minors
The trips combine a primary city with a secondary one. The options are: Chiang Mai and Lamphun; Chiang Mai and Lampang; Khon Kaen, Udon Thani and Nong Khai, Krabi and Trang, and Songkhla (Hat Yai), Satun and Phatthalung.

New experiences
The tours focus on Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son and Ubon Ratchathani introducing specific experiences to refresh the three well established destinations.

Minors to minors
Tours link emerging destinations with each other such as Udon Thani and Loei, Udon Thani and Bueng Kan, and Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani.

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