The 10-strong delegation brought with them an entourage of 20 members from the Macao press corps, and including Macao Daily News President Lu Bo, for a three-day familiarisation trip to appraise Phuket and the neighbouring tourism areas.
The delegation was welcomed to the island at the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Phuket office by Narong Onintr, Director of the Phuket office of the Province Strategy and Information Group, who made plain the sheer volume and growth in the number of tourists to Phuket from China.
Lino Ho Weng Cheong, General Assembly President of the Macao-Thailand Chamber of Commerce, noted that the aim of the visit was to put Phuket on the radar of business people in Macao in many fields of commerce, all made possible through connectivity under China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
“By visiting Phuket, we hope to reflect the information and resources of Phuket, and other areas in Thailand, and its role in the Belt and Road Initiative, back to Macao citizens and the Macao Chamber of Commerce by coverage through the media,” he said.
“Also, Airasia just launched its Macao-Phuket direct flights four days ago (Jan 8). As the old saying in China goes, ‘Open roads lead to prosperity’. Connection through transport routes can promote trade between two cities,” he added.
Mr Narong pointed out that Phuket, and Thailand, was likewise looking to expand its relationship with Macao and a range of fronts.
“We are focusing on six plans, namely Phuket as a marine hub, a medical hub, a MICE city, a source of skilled human resources, a ‘Smart City’ and in sports tourism,” he said.
“And this meeting helps to support all these plans as we move ahead together. We can look at cross-promoting tourism in the future,” he added.
At the launch of AirAsia’s Macao-Phuket daily direct flights earlier this month, Sirima Chindamat, Director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Hong Kong office said that passengers flying from Macao to Phuket via Bangkok amounted to some 70,000.
The director shared that Macao and Hong Kong remains a potential market to Thailand, describing them as “quality tourists.”
“We would love to see 8% more at least, especially with AirAsia’s new route, we are positive to get this number,” Ms Chindamat said.
Celia Lao, CEO of AirAsia Hong Kong and Macao, pointed out that the new direct flights were a long time coming, with strong demand from Macao and Phuket.
The keen interest has been attributed to Macao being a popular destination for Thai tourists and Phuket being a well-known island paradise for Chinese and international travellers, Ms Lao explained.
The direct connection will create immense convenience for travellers from both ends, she added.
Ms Lao also echoed that the chance of adding another Macao-Phuket route is higher than the addition of a Hong Kong-Phuket route, as Hong Kong airport’s runway is often maximally occupied.
– Zhong Wenhui and Tanyaluk Sakoot