HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The air wars escalate

Thai AirAsia first no-friller into Macau

Slow boat to China offers luxury and breathtaking sights

Pata reveals 21% visitor arrival growth for early 2004

Nok Air to take flight on July 23

The air wars escalate

And the winner is the traveler

Marion Vogt

2004 has seen a price war between the airlines, all vying to woo the traveler with lower and even lower fares. However, not all airlines believe that the way to attract the tourist dollar (or baht) is just to drop prices. There are other ways, according to AirAsia, one of the newer groups to drop in over the Chiang Mai skies.

Tony Fernandes, AirAsia Group CEO during the first press conference for the inaugural flight of no-frills carrier AirAsia from Bangkok to Macau on July 5, 2004.

Talking to Tony Fernandes, the Group Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia revealed that he does not intend to have a fare war, but more to make beautiful places more affordable for holidaymakers and business people alike. He said, “AirAsia always tries to do things differently from others. Macau, for example, has a great access to China and already now we can say that we will start operating a second daily flight from September onwards. We will also open the Macau - Kuala Lumpur route on August 23 and our motto is: No more talk, but action! We will have five daily flights to Macau in the next three month, two from Kuala Lumpur, two from Bangkok and the fifth destination will be announced shortly. It will definitely be from Thailand. We can already tell you that we operate on staying as a low cost airline for a long time to come. If we are operating more flights, the costs will even go down more, and flying with us at even the highest fare is still cheaper than catching the lowest with any other airline. But the other airlines do not have to be afraid as we are targeting different segments of the market.”

Helena Fernandes, the acting director of the Macau Government Tourist Office extended a warm welcome to Tony Fernandes who was frequently asked if the matching surname was yet another reason to use Macau as their gateway to China. Chiangmai Mail will inform you about the old and new ‘adventure zones’ of Macau over the next couple of weeks.

Thai AirAsia first no-friller into Macau

Cheaper than a bottle of Portuguese wine!

Marion Vogt

The maiden flight of the young airline Thai AirAsia on the new Bangkok-Macau return route was packed. The earlier promotional campaign of 670 baht one way for the first 6000 seats was snapped up within six hours of its first day sales, an indication of the popularity of low fare deals.

A big welcome on Macau International Airport when the maiden flight of Thai AirAsia arrived on July 5, 2004.

It became the first low fare, no frills airline in Southeast Asia to land at the Macau International Airport. CEO of AirAsia, Tassapon Bijleveld revealed that AirAsia is working on more new routes, and it is just a matter of coordination with governments and other parties to see which destination becomes available first. Tassaporn said, “We are very flexible and we very much want to concentrate on the China and Indochina market. People queried us about going to Macau and gambling, but I say that Macau really is not only a gambling destination, it is a gateway to Mainland China and that’s how we treat it. From now until the end of the month we have on the route Bangkok to Macau 100 seats booked daily and on the return 148, which means full house. We soon will offer a second daily flight and by the end of the year we hope to have another three or four destinations in China. We will stick to the short-range flights of three to three and a half hours and I do not think that we will extend. If we have a hub somewhere we could. Where this hub will be we will see in about two months when we look at the bookings again.”

AirAsia CEO Tassapon Bijleveld between Helena Senna Fernandes, acting director of the Macau Government Tourist Office and Deng Jun, chairman of the board of directors and executive committee of Macau Airport Company at the press conference in Macau.

Thai AirAsia operates a daily non-stop service connecting Bangkok and Macau which is the 6th international point-to-point flight from its hub in Bangkok. It will boost its extensive network in Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia to allow for greater connectivity between the countries.

Slow boat to China offers luxury and breathtaking sights

Public Relations Department, Chiang Rai

A 300 ton ferry that can carry 80 passengers has been launched as a further tourist attraction for northern Thailand, southern China and Myanmar.

The vessel, “Mekong River’s Prince”, was launched at Chiang Rai’s Chiang Saen port by the province’s Deputy Governor Sriprom Hormyok.

The Mekong River’s Prince is fully furnished and has a restaurant on board. It can take passengers to Myanmar and upstream to Sibsong Panna in South China. Along the way, passengers can enjoy beautiful scenery and learn of the lifestyle of the people living along the river.

The ship’s company says it has secured the cooperation of countries in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region regarding passports and the issuing of border passes.

It is the first time that a ferry serves tourists and other travelers on a regular basis, as previously large freighters were modified to carry occasional passengers.

The ferry is being touted as a new selling point to draw tourists to Chiang Rai city. The company is also offering a special promotion for travelers. Please contact the Chiang Saen port in Chiang Saen district.

Pata reveals 21% visitor arrival growth for early 2004


Early 2004 statistics for international visitor arrivals (IVAs) to 30 Asia Pacific destinations show 21% growth, the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Strategic Intelligence Centre (SIC) revealed today.

While these are only preliminary results reflecting the first months of 2004, PATA Managing Director-SIC John Koldowski said signs were positive. “The PATA region is on track for IVA growth of more than 15% for calendar year 2004 compared to calendar year 2003,” he said. A direct comparison of each destination’s year-to-date IVAs with those for the same reporting period in 2003 showed that, in total, the 30 destinations welcomed an additional 15.3 million IVAs in early 2004. (The reporting periods differ from destination to destination.)

Koldowski said: “By taking a similar first reporting period comparison back through to 2000 it becomes apparent that gains in IVAs are consistently positive, with the 2004 result the best - in volume terms - since 2000.” Comparing IVAs in 2004 with 2003 is not ideal due to the effects of the SARS outbreak, said Koldowski. “However, the good news is that the destinations that were most directly affected by SARS last year are collectively well ahead in volume terms in 2004,” he said. “This is largely due to the dramatic increases in flows to and from mainland China.”

The following bullet points represent direct and quotable region-by-region commentary by John Koldowski:

While Singapore and Chinese Taipei are still behind the high levels of 2001 and 2002 respectively, the lag is minimal and - assuming no new negative factors - should exceed those levels very soon, especially as the trough for May and June 2003 has yet to be factored in.

In South Asia, India and the Maldives have begun their first reporting periods of 2004 with exceptionally strong growth rates.

In Northeast Asia, China (PRC), Hong Kong, Japan and Macau are showing strong growth rates as well.

In Southeast Asia, arrivals through 13 ports into Indonesia are at the highest levels for the reporting period since 2000, with Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam also showing the most arrivals for five years. In the Pacific, seven of the ten destinations for which provisional 2004 year-to-date data are available show the highest number of arrivals since 2000, with the Republic of Palau, New Zealand and Samoa leading the way. The Northern Marianas Islands and Fiji have so far posted slower gains but are still in excess of anything since 2000. Australia and New Zealand are showing signs of moving into positive growth territory after some periods of stagnation.

In North America, while there are signs of upward movements, at this stage it still looks like a long, difficult and slow process before record IVAs will be exceeded once again.

Nok Air to take flight on July 23

Tom Van Blarcom

Nok Air, the truly Thai low cost airline, will begin flying on July 23. Nok Air, dedicated to expanding the flying experience for all Thai travelers, will begin regularly scheduled flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Had Yai and Udorn Thani. Using 737-400 aircraft Nok Air will operate five round trip flights per day to Chiang Mai, three to Udorn Thani, and two to Had Yai.

Originally, Nok Air’s first flights were to be on July 20, but as HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn has graciously consented to preside over the official launch, which, due to scheduling will now take place on July 22, the inaugural flights will now be July 23. Any travelers who have purchased tickets for flights prior to July 23 will be offered seats on Thai Airways International flights to their desired destinations at the closest times to their original departure.

Travelers wanting to reserve and purchase tickets on Nok Air flights are offered some of the most convenient and innovative means in the airline industry.

Travelers can now reserve and purchase tickets through the Nok Air 1318 call center, or through the Nok Air website, or at the Nok Air counter at the domestic terminal at Don Muang Airport. Travelers can pay for their tickets via the call center, online or at the airport using a credit card (Visa or MasterCard). Travelers also can, once they have made their reservations at the call center or online, make cash payments for their tickets at all 7-Elevens with Counter Service Plus. Lastly, travelers holding Siam Commercial Bank ATM cards will be able to make payment for their tickets via any Siam Commercial Bank ATM nationwide.