Two carriers are expanding services

Thais are eager to visit destinations in Japan

The general atmosphere at Japan FIT Fair at Royal Paragon Hall.

Two Japanese airlines – Japan Airlines (JAL) and Peach Aviation – plan to expand the number of flights they operate to meet the demand of Thai tourists, while tour operators expect Thais to seek out new travel destinations.

The number of JAL passengers traveling between Thailand and Japan recovered to 70-80% of pre-Covid levels, said Kazuyuki Hijimoto, JAL vice president and regional manager of Thailand, Indochina and South Asia.

Mr Hijimoto said JAL is operating 3-4 direct flights daily and will increase the number to five per day during the summer schedule – the same number that operated before the pandemic.

He said airline tickets in the second quarter should not differ from the first quarter, when they were 20-30% more expensive than before the pandemic. More Thais are expected to travel to Japan to experience the spring season and sakura blossoms, Mr. Hijimoto said.

A more challenging task is to entice Thais to travel during the “summer season”, especially to the northern regions of Japan, such as Hokkaido or Tohoku, and to encourage Japanese people to travel abroad, as many of them are hesitant to venture out. out, he said.

Robert Thomas, sales manager at Peach Aviation, said the airline will operate a daily flight between Osaka and Bangkok from March 26. This would increase the airline’s number of flights from six to seven flights a week.

This route was introduced last year, replacing the Okinawa-Bangkok route, as the airline’s new aircraft – an Airbus A321-LR – has a longer range that can meet demand for Osaka, which is also a popular destination among Thais.

Thai passengers made up about two-thirds of the total load factor, Thomas said.

Mr. Thomas also expected a remarkable recovery in Japanese passengers during spring break.

Speaking at the Visit Japan FIT Fair, Kei Doi, executive director of the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), said that the number of Thai tourists visiting Japan in December 2022 improved to 50% from the level recorded in 2019, while the number of airline seats has now been restored to 60% of its pre-pandemic capacity.

Ms Doi said the Thai market could reach 1.3 million this year – the same level as 2019, even as there remains limited flight capacity and a shortage of manpower in Japan’s tourism sector, including hotels, airports and bus companies.

She said 70% of Thai tourists were repeat visitors who usually took direct flights to cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, Hokkaido and Fukuoka.

JNTO wants to encourage more of these tourists to visit secondary cities such as Wakayama, Nagano or Oita, which are easily accessible from major cities with international airports.

Takeshi Kawakami, section manager of the Oita Prefectural Tourism Association’s sales promotions department, said more and more Thai tourists were visiting Oita. This was about 4,000 in December, up from 3,200 in the same pre-pandemic period.

Alisa Thaithatkul, a marketing associate at Chill Chill Japan, a travel agency, said the company is promoting new destinations to Thai tourists, such as Nagano, Gifu and Mie, in conjunction with cities that are already popular, such as Osaka.

Meanwhile, travel packages are still 15-20% more expensive than before the pandemic.

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