Hua Hin hotels push airport redo

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Hotel operators in Hua Hin and Cha-am have urged the government to speed up a revamp of the existing airport to develop better links to Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, China and India.

The idea was floated to strengthen tourism competitiveness in the area and facilitate airlines, especially budget carriers wishing to add direct flights from major cities in Southeast Asia, China and South Asia to the Hua Hin airport.

“If the Hua Hin airport gets expanded and promoted as an international airport, more tourists will come to the area,” said Udom Srimahachota, vice-president of the Thai Hotels Association (THA) Western chapter.

The Hua Hin airport is owned and operated by the Civil Aviation Department with a short runway that can accommodate only small aircraft. The airport is attracting a number of private jets to serve an increasing amount of upmarket resorts nearby.

“The department announced earlier plans to expand the airport, but no action plans were made,” Mr Udom said.

Kan Air operates regular flights between Chiang Mai and Hua Hin. Nok Air has already stopped services on its Hua Hin-Bangkok route because of a lack of passengers.

Mr Udom, who runs Baan Talay Dao Resort in Hua Hin, said major budget airlines have expressed interest in adding the twin resort towns to their destination roster, but they prefer to operate international routes rather than domestic flights.

Tourism in Hua Hin and Cha-am has been increasing over the past decade after a tsunami hit the Andaman coast and Phuket island in 2004. The fatal tidal waves led many beach lovers to shift to other areas including Hua Hin and Cha-am. Over a decade of bomb attacks and uncertainty in the deep South also steered more tourists to the cities.

Hua Hin is dubbed a family destination for Thai tourists, a wellness destination for folks from Myanmar and a wedding and honeymoon location for the Indian and Middle Eastern markets.

Mr Udom said the government has dedicated a lot of money to developing the U-tapao airport in Rayong province to boost tourism in Pattaya and facilitate more business travellers to industrial estates and the newly promoted Eastern Economic Corridor.

“The cost of travelling to Hua Hin and Cha-am is 30% lower than other destinations like Pattaya, Phuket and Koh Samui,” he said. “Tourists should be happy with the prices, but the problem is there is no direct connection from their homes.”

The average hotel occupancy rate in Hua Hin and Cha-am is expected to stay at 50% this month, down from 55-60% in the same month last year. The occupancy rate for the coming high season this year is projected at 60-70%, compared to 70-80% in the previous peak season. The major factor for the decline is the economic slowdown at home and abroad.

There are some 25,000 hotel rooms in Hua Hin and Cha-am, though only 15,000-17,000 rooms are with registered hotels.

Christian Wurm, general manager of Hyatt Regency Hua Hin and the Barai, said an international airport in Hua Hin would give a tremendous boost to the local economy, ranging from hotels, restaurants and golf courses to tourism-related activities.

“Tourists from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea will find their journey time to Hua Hin is halved with a new airport,” he said.

Mr Wurm said hotels in Hua Hin have seen strong demand from independent tourists from Europe for the upcoming high season, especially from Scandinavia and Germany.

Source: Bangkok Post

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