Blue Panorama, an Italian charter flight airline, began operating a new route to Phuket for the winter season to increase the number of visitors from Italy. Blue Panorama Airlines has been operating direct flights connecting Rome and the tropical paradise of Phuket since its inaugural flight on 29 December 2008. To support this new development, the Tourism Authority of Thailand recently hosted an Agents Education Trip (AET) and Familiarization Trip (fam trip) for 15 agents to travel to Thailand during 27 January – 5 February, 2009. The itinerary featured the three destinations of Phuket, Bangkok and Ayutthaya.
The objective of the familiarization trip is to promote Thailand as a travel destination for the Italian Market and to restore confidence in travel to Thailand. Additionally, a Media Education Trip (MET) was conducted for 14 top-level Italian media representing television, radio and daily newspapers. Participants took part in the Bangkok to Phuket trip during 5 – 12 February 2009.
With flights being offered every Wednesday until March 2009, the newly-launched Rome – Phuket – Bangkok route is expected to play an important role in encouraging more Italian tourists to travel to Thailand. In addition, another route serving Milan – Bangkok - Phuket operates every Thursday until March 2009. If the service receives positive feedback, it will continue to operate until August. The first flight from Rome was timed to co-incide with a Christmas Day welcome and was launched on 24 December. The first flight from Milan started on 26 December. Though, this is the first service to Thailand following the 2004 tsunami incident, the route is expected to contribute to 500 tourist arrivals to Thailand per week.
The charter flights serving the Phuket-Italy route are mainly aimed at providing services for package holidays. Excess seats are sold off on a flight-only basis. By offering a more restricted service than the major scheduled or low cost airlines, the cost of these seats is highly affordable.
In 2007, the number of Italian visitors who travelled to Thailand was 159,498, or a 16.54% increase over 2006, out of which 140,999 arrived at Suvarnabhumi International Airport and 17,571 in Phuket. Visitor arrivals to Thailand at Phuket International Airport during January-August 2008 totalled 829,083, an increase of 5.24% from 787,827 arrivals during the first eight months of 2007.