China's Juneyao Airlines will start service to Chiang Mai tomorrow to cash in on the northern capital's emerging popularity among Chinese travellers, driven partly by the hit Lost In Thailand film.
Juneyao Airlines’ A320-200 will serve the Chiang Mai-Shanghai route with two flights per week starting tomorrow before doubling that frequency on April 26.The Shanghai-based full-service carrier will begin with two flights per week between Shanghai and Chiang Mai before doubling the frequency to four flights from April 26.
Juneyao will be the first airline to operate scheduled flights on the route and becomes only the second scheduled Chinese carrier to make Chiang Mai a port of call. China Eastern links Chiang Mai and Kunming.
Chiang Mai is the third Thai city Juneyao will serve, after Phuket and Bangkok, as Thailand is looming large on China's global tourist map.
On Sunday, the airline doubled its Shanghai-Bangkok frequency to twice daily to cater to growing demand, particularly from mainland China.
Keith Lam, Juneyao Airlines' Thailand manager, said Lost in Thailand, a low-budget comedy that beat global blockbuster Avatar to become China's highest-grossing film at 6 billion baht, has fuelled travel demand to Chiang Mai.
``There was a strong demand before Lost in Thailand was shown, but the film's hit has given it an extra push,'' he told the Bangkok Post.
Much of the film was shot in Chiang Mai.
The airline is mainly targeting independent Chinese travellers and tourists for the Chiang Mai service. It expects a load factor of 80%.
Juneyao will use an Airbus 320-200, a narrow-body twin-jet aircraft configured with 150 seats in economy and eight in business, on the Shanghai-Chiang Mai route.
Juneyao held its maiden voyage from its Shanghai base to Phuket on Nov 9, adding Bangkok on Jan 17.
Its Phuket service began with four flights a week before upgrading to a daily service on Dec 9 to cater to the surge in outbound Chinese holidaymakers.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand estimates the number of Chinese tourists visiting the kingdom will reach 3 million this year, up from 2.7 million in 2012.
But Kasikornbank research projected at least 3.35 million, an increase of 20.5%.
Tourism revenue from Chinese visitors is projected to increase by 27.5% to about 123 billion baht.