Charter flights target Japanese

Thai travel agents have teamed up with Japanese tour operators to bring at least six charter flights from Japan to Thailand in a bid to boost tourism for both countries.

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The Thai-Japan Tourist Association (TJTA) and the Thai Travel Agents Association (TTAA) said many national tourism bodies and foreign travel agents have approached Thailand to promote their destinations, especially Japan.

TJTA president Anake Srishevachart said at least six charter flights with a total of 1,710 seats from Honshu, Japan's main island, would fly to Thailand in the high season from October to December.

This will benefit tourism in both countries. Thailand seeks to recover Japanese tourist confidence while Japan hopes to woo more Thai travellers to its new tourism destinations.

The first charter flight will fly in October, from Ishikawa prefecture. Charter flights from Fukushima will start in November and from Niigata in December.

Mr Anake said Japanese tourists' confidence had not been restored yet with the martial law still in place and despite the TAT, in collaboration with local insurance companies, offering travel insurance for foreign travellers.

"We have to boost our tourism image by word of mouth. We are confident that after travellers visit Thailand by the charter flights, they will tell friends, family members and others that Thailand is now safe for travel. This will help to bounce back the Japanese market next year," Mr Anake said.

The TJTA said the number of Japanese arrivals in 2014 was expected to be similar to last year's figure of 1.54 million visitors. In the first half of this year, Japanese visitors dropped by 20.9% to 676,414.

In terms of outbound tourism to Japan, Mr Anake said the TJTA believed it still had plenty of room to grow in the future.

In the first six months of this year, Thai tourists to Japan reached around 300,000. The association expects 700,000 arrivals this year, compared with 400,000 last year. Thailand is the fifth biggest market for Japan's tourism after South Korea, Taiwan, China and Hong Kong.

The Japanese government sees growing potential in the Thai market and has fully supported marketing activities to woo Thais, said Mr Anake. Good response to the charter flights from both Thai and Japanese travellers could lead to regular flights.

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