Font Size

- Aa +

Fri 1 Jun 2007 12:00 AM

Font Size

- Aa +

Thailand and Malaysia battle it out this summer

News that Malaysia has overtaken Thailand as the top outbound destination for both Emirates Holidays and Etihad Holidays has sparked a battle between the two popular countries.

News that Malaysia has overtaken Thailand as the top outbound destination for both Emirates Holidays and Etihad Holidays has sparked a battle between the two popular countries.

The reason for Thailand lagging behind is due to capacity constraints on flights serving the country from the Middle East and so the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is making efforts to resolve this issue.

But Malaysia is also keen to retain its pole position and has started lobbying for more flight frequencies from the Middle East to KL.

"Last year 186,000 Middle East visitors came to Malaysia, but flights are limited," said Dato Mirza Mohammad Taiyab, director general, Tourism Malaysia.

"This year we expect 250,000 visitors from the Middle East, but with more flights, this could increase to at least 300,000." He claimed Oman Air was "seriously considering" flying to Malaysia and that Egypt Air would fly to Kuala Lumpur from June 2. In addition, Malaysian Airlines could up frequencies from Dubai between July and September and Etihad Airways started operating a six times weekly service from Abu Dhabi to KL in January.

Meanwhile, Thailand's national carrier, THAI, has announced it will add two additional flights per week from Dubai to Bangkok between July 5 and August 18.

The extra flights will depart Dubai on Thursdays and Saturdays taking the total number of flights from Dubai to Bangkok for the six-week period to 13 weekly.

Private Iranian airline Mahan Air is also considering upping its immensely popular Tehran-Bangkok service from daily to between 10 and 14 flights weekly.

Thailand welcomed more than 367,500 visitors from the Middle East in 2006, representing a 31% increase for the period January to November 2006 over the previous year, with the most popular domestic destinations being Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai.

But TAT's Middle East representative, Shaikh Rahmatullah said 2007 growth would be stunted unless more flights were added.

"We have already seen [Middle East arrivals] growth of 27% for the first three months of the year, but the delay in the Airbus A380 has messed up the scheduling for many airlines, which has impacted capacity to Thailand," he said.

Rahmatullah also noted that Malaysia's current popularity had been driven by its Malaysia 2007 campaign and hinted that Thailand would re-gain its crown in 2008.

For all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.