Thai travelers to Japan set to surge and top 1 mil. in 2018

BANGKOK, NNA - The number of visitors from Thailand to Japan is likely to show a double-digit surge this year to top 1 million for the first time on the back of increased flights between the two countries, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

The amount of Thai travelers to Japan last year rose 9.5 percent from 2016 to a preliminary figure of 987,100 and its growth will accelerate this year due partly to the end of a yearlong mourning period for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, said Takuya Shiraishi, director of JNTO's Bangkok office.

Southeast Asia's second biggest economy ranked sixth on the list of foreign travelers to Japan last year after China, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the United States.

The expected faster growth in 2018 is also attributable to the removal in October 2017 of red-flag status over the country's aviation safety imposed in June 2015 by the International Civil Aviation Organization, which prevented Thai-registered airlines from adding more routes to Japan.

The number of Thai visitors to Japan had seen double-digit growth for five straight years until 2016, according to JNTO. The number of flights by airliners between the two nations is scheduled to increase this year.

All Nippon Airways Co., Japan's leading airline, said it is planning to increase its flights between Bangkok and Tokyo from four to five per day from June 1.

Japan Airlines Co. also said it has decided to maintain two daily flights on the same route until March 2019 due to "recent good travel demand" after doubling the daily service last December.

Meanwhile, Thai AirAsia X, a Thailand-based low-cost carrier, will resume its direct flight from Bangkok to Sapporo, the capital of Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, starting from April 10.

On top of Tokyo, other regional destinations are also gaining more popularity among Thai travelers.

Okinawa has drawn more Thai visitors since Japanese budget carrier Peach Aviation Ltd. inaugurated its first direct flight in February 2017 from Bangkok to Naha, the capital of Japan's southernmost island prefecture, contributing to the rapid growth in air traffic, JNTO's Shiraishi said.

According to the Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau, the local government's tourism promotional body, the number of Thai tourists to the prefecture is expected to reach 30,000 in the current fiscal year ending this month, almost tripling from 10,200 visitors the previous year.

Yuri Kinjo, the bureau's sales and promotion official for the Southeast Asian market, told NNA that the monthly figure has been on the rise since the daily flight launch by the low-cost carrier, jumping from less than 1,000 to around 3,000, as travelers from Thailand previously visited Okinawa on connection flights after arriving elsewhere in Japan. (NNA/Kyodo)

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