Transfer passengers at Suvarnabhumi Airport will now be able to choose between a range of tours if they have at least six hours to spare before they need to catch their next plane. Paknam Web was invited over to the airport this morning for the press conference and then the inaugural launch for the first transit passengers setting off for their tour. During the press conference, Mr. Weerasak Kowsurat, the chairman of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), explained to us that during 2008 there were 1.5 million transit passengers at Suvarnabhumi International Airport. What he wanted to do was to try and wet their appetite by showing them just a little of what Thailand had to offer. He then hoped that they would later come back for the “main course”.
A total of fifteen different tours have been organized which take passengers to either nearby Bangkok or tourist destinations in Samut Prakan. As well as places like the Grand Palace and canal tours, transfer passengers can also choose shopping, golf, massage or even a dinner and a show depending on what interests them and how much time they have. There are no set times for the tours as you can either go on a private trip if you are alone or join a small group of 6-8 people. These then set off as and when there are enough people to make a group. The price includes air-conditioned vehicle, English speaking guide and admission expenses. The guides will also help with all formalities at the airport.
You can find counters for the “Transfer Passenger Tour” at Concourse C and F. Here they will give you a booklet which details the tours on offer as well as a price list for each tour. The tours range from four to six hours in length. There are also four price ranges for people such as one person, 2 people, 3-5 people and 6-8 people. As this project is a co-operation between the TAT and also the Immigration and the AOT, they have been able to add a few extra benefits for passengers taking part in these tours. Immigration have said that you don’t need to apply for a visa and they will also fast track you through immigration in order to save you time. In addition, the AOT have said that they will waive the normal 700 baht airport tax.
After the press conference had concluded, Mr. Weerasak Kowsurat took the media through the airport to go and greet the first transit passengers who were taking part in this tour. It was a bit of a strange parade with four Thai children in traditional costumes leading the way. Along the way Mr. Weerasak greeted a few of the foreign tourists that had just arrived in Thailand. They were probably wondering what was going on. At baggage claims I noticed that the TAT had set up a stand to help promote Thai fruits. They were offering free samples of different fruit that is in season at the moment. Also, when I went back out later through customs, there were people in the arrival lounge in traditional clothes handing out bags of free fruit to all arriving passengers. They are certainly doing their best now to to be hospitable to all foreign tourists.
Once Mr. Weerasak had personally greeted the first four transit passengers and had given them a speech welcoming them to Thailand, they were then whisked off to immigration. Mr. Weerasak and the press were then hot on their heels. They were taken to “fast track” so that they wouldn’t waste any time in long queues. They then boarded their air-conditioned van and set off for their tour of Bangkok. The media were also invited to join two of the tours. I have posted more pictures of the press conference and our little parade through the airport over at the ThailandQA Forums.