Foreigners residing in Phuket may soon be coming to Penang in droves to renew their visas following the introduction of a direct flight between both places.
It has been estimated that almost 30,000 foreigners, including expatriates, are residing there among others operating tourism-related businesses.
Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) marketing officer Rattinan Chantanakoseth said it would be easier for them to reach Penang via air.
“Currently, most of these foreigners take a six-hour bus trip and a boat ride to renew their three-month visas at Koh Song Island in Myanmar bordering Thailand,” she told newsmen after TAT hosted a dinner for visiting Penang tour operators and pressmen in Phuket recently.
The group was flown to Phuket via Firefly airline, which made its maiden flight to the town last Friday.
The flight from Penang to Phuket takes 70 minutes compared to 10 hours by land.
Tourism Malaysia marketing manager (Phuket Office) Sup-reeya Jitrawiparat said the air link would further boost the close ties between Penang and Phuket.
She said many Thais sent their children for studies in Penang.
“We believe foreigners in Phuket will come to Penang to renew their visas and also to enjoy Penang’s tantalising food,” she said, adding that Malay- sia hoped to attract 2.2 million Thai visitors for Visit Malaysia 2007.
Penang Tourism Action Coun-cil acting general manager Bobby Tan said tour operators in Pe-nang must focus on fulfilling the needs of foreigners planning to renew their visas in Penang.
“If we can attract a large group, it will be a shot in the arm for the local tourism industry,” he added.
Tan said Penang tour operators must also quickly set up a committee with their Phuket counterparts to draw up tour packages for both places.
The direct flight has caused much excitement among tour operators in both places as the last direct flight was more than 20 years ago.
Source : STAR
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