Two carriers expand their services

Thais keen to visit destinations in Japan

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

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

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

Mr Hijimoto said JAL operates 3-4 direct flights a day and will increase the number to five a day during the summer schedule – the same number operating before the pandemic.

He said airfares in the second quarter were not expected to differ from those in 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, Hijimoto said.

A more difficult task is to encourage Thai people to travel during the “summer” season, especially to northern regions of Japan such as Hokkaido or Tohoku, as well as to encourage Japanese people to travel abroad because many between them are still hesitant to venture out, he said.

Robert Thomas, sales director at Peach Aviation, said the airline will operate a daily flight between Osaka and Bangkok from March 26. This would increase the airline’s flights from six to seven flights per 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 which can meet demand to Osaka, which is also a popular destination among Thais.

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

Mr Thomas also expected a noticeable upturn in Japanese passengers over the spring break.

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

Ms Doi said the Thai market could reach 1.3 million this year, the same level as in 2019, although there remains limited flight capacity and labor shortages in the tourism sector. in Japan, including hotels, airports and bus companies.

She said 70% of Thai tourists were regular visitors who mostly flocked to cities with direct flights, 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 chief of the sales promotion department of the Oita Prefectural Tourism Association, said an increasing number of Thai tourists are visiting Oita. This stood at around 4,000 in December, compared to 3,200 recorded during the same period before the pandemic.

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

Meanwhile, package tours are still 15-20% more expensive than before the pandemic.

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