Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi Airport set for Expansion as Chinese Tourism Surges
The Satellite Airport Terminal 1 (SAT-1) of Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi Airport is scheduled to open in response to the expected surge in Chinese tourists. The rise in tourist numbers follows Thailand’s decision to waive visa fees, a move that is projected to increase the number of flights to and from China by 300, bringing an additional 620,000 passengers per month. Initially, the opening of the SAT-1 terminal was planned for 2021 but was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
As of now, 70% of the terminal’s commercial area has been completed, following the resolution of issues with King Power. Airports of Thailand (AOT) CEO, Kirati Kitmanawat, confirmed that SAT-1 is now fully prepared to serve passengers. The new terminal expands the passenger handling area by 216,000 square meters and adds 28 aircraft parking stands, increasing the airport’s capacity from 45 million to 60 million passengers annually.
Future Developments for Suvarnabhumi Airport
The AOT has set plans in motion to kick-start the second phase of Suvarnabhumi Airport’s development worth 7.8 billion baht by 2024. Early steps in this phase will involve initiating a bidding process for the baggage conveyor system for the satellite terminal. After a one-month trial run, the SAT-1 terminal is expected to be fully operational, with airlines Thai AirAsia X and Thai Vietjet making use of the terminal.
Thai AirAsia X will operate 14 flights daily to and from SAT-1 in its first week of operations, with Thai Vietjet operating four flights per day from the terminal. The first flight from the terminal will be a Thai AirAsia X’s flight to Shanghai.
The Impact of The Visa Waiver on Thai Tourism
The visa waiver is expected to have a significant impact on the Thai tourism market. From January 1 to September 17, 2023, Thailand welcomed over 19 million foreign tourists, with Chinese tourists making up the second-largest group. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) anticipates that the visa exemption policy will attract around 4.01 million to 4.4 million Chinese tourists to Thailand in 2023, generating revenue of 257.5 billion baht.
Within the first five months of the visa exemption policy, around 2,888,500 Chinese tourists are expected to visit Thailand, generating revenue of 140.313 billion baht. This represents a remarkable recovery rate of 62% when compared to 2022.
As Thailand’s economy recovers from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the reopening of Suvarnabhumi Airport’s SAT-1 terminal and the visa waiver for Chinese tourists present significant opportunities for growth. These developments not only ensure the continued expansion of the airport but also signal a positive trend for the country’s tourism industry.
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