Services will begin soon on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
Chinese outbound tourist numbers are expected to reach 1.05 million by the end of 2011, the real estate company Castlewood Group of Singapore reports, with large numbers flying out for Chinese New Year. There were 130 flights from China to Thailand during the New Year period, with more than half of those – around 80 flights – going direct to Phuket.
More than 130,000 visitors from China landed in Phuket, boosting occupancy rates of three- to four-star hotels to 90 per cent.
Castlewood noted that in a recent poll by the giant Chinese travel website Ctrip, Phuket received seven million votes, making it the sixth most popular holiday destination in the world. Apart from the standard attractions of Phuket – the laid-back lifestyle, good shopping and smiling welcome – the island scores with Chinese tourists because it is close to their home. Flying from Chongqing, China, to Phuket, for example, takes just over three hours.
“Forecasters remain optimistic that Chinese visitors are likely to increase somewhat during the next three to four years with the help of the strong Chinese currency and the country’s economic growth,” Castlewood said.
Sichuan Airlines has 55 aircraft – a fleet roughly two thirds the size of Thai Airways International – and has nine more on order.