In a revision to the previously announced expansion plans by Airports of Thailand, the country’s main airport operator, a further BHT54 billion is to be spent on expansion plans for the country’s six principal airports. This takes the overall budget to BHT194 billion to be spent on Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang in Bangkok, Hat Yai, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Phuket – which combined deal with approximately 90% of the country’s air traffic.
Part of the reason for the increase is the need to construct new facilities at Don Muang owing to a dramatic increase in the number of passengers and flights from budget airlines. Improvement swill include the construction of a new mass-transit line.
At present, the six main airports handle just over 70 million passengers on an annual basis. Projections for the year 2030 show this figure will more than double to 150 million passengers. Currently Thailand is seeing a substantial growth in international tourists, with figures up 15.5% for the first three months of 2016. The figures for the year are predicted to be around 32 million arrivals. Tourism is critical to Thailand’s economy, accounting for around 10%, a figure which reflects on the relative political stability of the country since power was seized by the army in 2014.
As a further indication of the booming tourist industry, Suvarnabhumi Airport was constructed only ten years ago, yet the second phase of expansion is due to start this August. Already the airport is overcrowded, having to handle 50 million passengers per annum, having been originally designed to handle a maximum capacity of 45 million passengers per annum. This new development will see the capacity grow to 60 million in 2019 and 90 million in 2021. Located some 16 miles east of Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi Airport is the sixth-busiest airport in Asia, the busiest in Thailand, and is the main hub for Thai Airways International, Bangkok Airways and Orient Thai Airlines. (US$1.00 = THB35.28 at time of publication.)
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