The ceremony was held in front of the office of bus operator Phuket Smart Bus Co Ltd (PKSB), an affiliate of the Phuket City Development (PKCD) Group, at Central Festival East shopping mall.
PKCD Executive Director Watchara Jaru-ariyanon in his opening speech outlined the features of the bus, and its role in the fast-paced increase of Phuket’s tourism arrival numbers.
“There are about 10 million tourists visiting Phuket right now per year,” Mr Watchara said, giving a likely more realistic figure for tourism arrivals to Phuket than the numbers often reported in tourism-promotion announcements.
“If this number doubles to 20 million, which it is expected to do, something will happen to Phuket. The traffic will be severe. If we can commute 24 people in one bus, the traffic will be a lot less than 24 people travelling in separate cars,” he added.
“Asked how is the smart bus different from other buses. It is very comfortable, and you want to sit on it. The features enable passengers to be able to relax.
“The windows are large to see the beautiful seaviews, the route is beautiful, and the buses are new and highly capable of travelling over the hills of the west coast. We must thank Rabbit, and VISA, which are doing many things to support us,” Mr Watchara said.
Under a one-month trial period, the first Phuket Smart Bus bus will depart Phuket airport at 9am tomorrow (Mar 1), followed by one every 45 minutes, with last bus will departing the airport 5pm.
The buses will travel what the company has dubbed the “Blue Route”, an indication that other routes are to come, from Phuket International Airport to Surin Beach, Kamala Beach, Patong Beach, Karon Beach, Kata Beach and Rawai Beach.
There are currently 11 bus stops each way along the route, with plans to expand those to about 25 stops each way, totalling 50 stops, Mr Watchara explained.
“The total distance is about two to three hours from the start to the end,” he said.
As to the vehicles themselves, the air-conditioned Mercedes-Benz buses come with Wi-Fi, USB charge sockets fitted to every seat, luggage racks, monitored CCTV security and wheelchair lift access.
The fares range from B50 to B170, Mr Watchara confirmed.
To board the bus passengers must buy a “Rabbit x Phuket Smartcard”, available on the bus, at more than 60 stores in Phuket and at literally thousands of locales around the country.
The card, bought for B300 with B200 credit encoded, is a version of the popular Rabbit card available in Bangkok, where it also can be used as part of a nationwide program.
The card can be topped and offers discounts at all participating outlets, which number more than 5,000.
“This includes BTS, McDonald’s, FamilyMart, Tesco Lotus express, Mini Big C, Siam Paragon, Emporium, EmQuartier, The Mall, S & P, and others,” Mr Watchara explained.