A 10 year plan has been put in place by Thailand’s main airport operator “Airports of Thailand (AOT)” to expand all of its six main airports to handle a boom of visitors it expects in future years.
The six airports under control of the AOT include Bangkok’s main Suvarnabhumi airport, the cities smaller Don Muang and the airports of Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Hat Yai. Between them, these airports serve 90 percent of Thailand’s air traffic.
Half of the investment will be used to upgrade Suvarnabhumi airport which will enable it to be able to serve 90 million travellers by 2022 compared to 75 million capacity both Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports can currently serve combined. On February the 10th, the airport set a record when it served over 196,000 passengers in just one day.
The plan for Suvarnabhumi airport will include an addition of a concourse to the current terminal by the year 2020, a 3rd runway by 2020 and a brand new terminal for international visitors by the year 2022.
The new concourse – also known as a satellite terminal – will take the airports capacity to 60 million, allowing it to catch up with demand since the airport is serving more visitors than it is designed for.
AOT stands to benefit from Thailand’s current position as one of the world’s best travel destination, however, it is going to take a while for the expanded infrastructure to be put in place before these opportunities can be fully tapped.
Overall, passenger traffic at the country’s six main airports has increased by over 68% since 2012. This huge increase can be attributed in part to a large influx of tourists arriving from China.
In 2016, Chinese tourists accounted for 8.75 million of Thailand’s overall tourists or 30%. Figures showed that between December 2016 and January 2017, 600,000 Chinese tourists applied for travel visas to Thailand.
The government has forecast tourist arrivals to be in the region of 32 million in 2017. Thailand relies heavily on its tourism sector which accounts for around 10% of the overall economy.