In July this year Hua Hin Today reported on plans for the upgrading of Thailand’s airports, but Hua Hin was then off the map as far as any government initiated international air travel was concerned.
Enter AirAsia and all that has changed. At a meeting between AirAsia management, government and airport authority officials together with tourism and hospitality representatives an AirAsia Five Year Network Plan & AirAsia Partnership Proposal was revealed to participants. Hua Hin Today was able to attend that meeting to hear the proposal details. However this information has yet to be made public. This is much more than a plan for flights between Hua Hin and Kuala Lumpur. This is a plan to link Hua Hin to many more cities and unique routes to other countries.
During the airports rather chequered history there have been a number of attempts to manage regular flights; both domestic and international which have been shortlived.
AirAsia – Tony’s Dream Really Took Off
AirAsia was established in 1993 and began operations on 18 November 1996. In 2001, the indebted airline was bought by Tony Fernandes’ company Tune Air Sdn Bhd. Fernandes turned the company around, producing a profit in 2002 and launching new routes from its original hub in Kuala Lumpur. In 2003, AirAsia opened a second hub at Senai International Airport near Singapore and launched its first international flight to Bangkok. From 2 aircraft in 2001 to 233 in 2017, this growth is projected to reach 525 aircraft by 2028. “The A320 has played a key role in our success, enabling us to offer our passengers the lowest fares possible and completely redefine short haul travel in Asia.” said Tony Fernandes, AirAsia Group CEO. AirAsia is well known for venturing into uncharted destinations and unique routes. Hua Hin is considered to be a ‘readymade product’, well in advance of previous successful new destinations such as Langkawi (Malaysia) or Badung in Indonesia where there was little infrastructure, including hotels or tourism services prior to the start-up. The clear message is that aviation is a key component in tourism development. Details of the AirAsia proposal have not been officially made available for publication although we can say that concessions are significant and will need to be carefully assessed as reasonable and the relevant budgets to be affected manageable. AirAsia supports the acceptance of concessions by stati ng that one of the fundamental considerations is that rebates increase passenger numbers as low cost carrier passengers are very price sensitive.
What can this mean to Hua Hin?
“Allow us to bring people to Hua Hin” pleads AirAsia’s Dilhan Haradasa; and this means lots of people; tourism numbers could increase dramatically. With about 30,000 hotel rooms and extensive new amenities to serve growing numbers of tourists and residents, the Hua Hin community has long yearned for both domestic and international air connections. “This is great news for Hua Hin”, says Black Mountain Managing Director Harald Elisson. “The convenience of having an international airport just 20 minutes away from Black Mountain gives visitors and residents a greater choice of easy travel options, and will give even more people the opportunity to come here”. But this is not just about big numbers. One of the projected benefits is for tourist numbers to be spread out during the year and an end to the low season blues. Huge economic benefits may be in reach for the biggest enterprises to the smallest home business.
Darun Saengchai, director general of the Department of Airports has not disclosed when the approval is expected, saying only that it should not take too long if the airline is to meet the planned December launch date. However this influx of visitors requires careful management if the character of the city is to remain. AirAsia flights may be the catalyst for growth however retaining the family-friendly and relaxed charm of the community is for local planners to carefully consider. Progress for Hua Hin is inevitable. The opening of Hua Hin Airport to international traffic presents an opportunity to leap forward towards that future as a real ‘game-changer’ for the local tourism industry.