Thai Airways Jitters Should Concern Industry
One of the most relevant tourism terms out there remains "you can't stay there if you can't get there." Airlift remains a critical defining factor in determining success or failure for leisure destinations.
Thai Airways International's current financial dilemma has far reaching consequences for the Phuket market. Recently TG has abandoned services to Johannesburg, Madrid and Moscow. Next up on the cutting board is the Phuket -Seoul service at the end of March.
There is widespread talk that Los Angeles and certain routes between Australia and Bangkok are under review. More will follow undoubtedly. At the same time TG is looking to ramp up services to China and Japan. The latter of course is surging as a leading outbound market for holiday-bound Thais.
While there is little doubt Thai has literally brought the house down with management issues, and operating inefficiency but you only have to glance back at the negative impact that a downtrodden Philippine Airlines or Garuda Indonesia brought to their respective markets when they massively reeled in routes. They have today reversed course and are both in international expansion modes.
Even Malaysian Airlines has continued to operate considerably regional and long haul frequencies, though volume has become the new mantra vis a vie low fares.
What is worrisome for Thailand would be the marginalization of the national flag carrier and creation of an over-reliance on low-cost airline carriers only. LCC's while revolutionizing the sector are in many ways are a tourism God – as they give and take away quickly. If new routes fail there is a rapid reaction and recoil.
Phuket is also extremely susceptible to the influence of non-scheduled airlines. During certain times of the year close to 30% of international passenger arrivals come on charters. While Russia remains a viable tourism market for the island, if certain charter operators failed, and TG does not service the destination, how would Russian travelers visit the island?
Thailand's massive push to volume has made it a virtual slave to airlift and any changes to the capacity will have dire effects on the ability to serve demand.
At a time when economic stability is needed, the situation at Thai Airways International is cause for larger concern, at a time when hoteliers are looking to the sky for answers.