It’s only been a month since Thailand implemented a “visa-free” regime for Indians, and Indian tourists are flocking to the country like never before. Flights from Mumbai and Delhi for the long weekend beginning December 23 and returning on January 1 are selling for more than US$600.
Fares between Bengaluru and Hyderabad are around US$720. For a country that constantly compares local peak-season airfares to those to Dubai, air fares to Thailand are reaching new highs, and in some cases are more than twice those to Dubai.
After Malaysia, China, and South Korea, India is Thailand’s fourth largest source market for tourism. Air India has previously announced flights to Phuket from Delhi, which will begin four times a week this week and rise to daily service the following month.
The airline has inaugurated flights from Kolkata to Bangkok and has partnered with Bangkok Airways to fly customers beyond Bangkok.
IndiGo is expanding its flying schedule.
Airlines are also capitalizing on the opportunity, with IndiGo leading the way by launching flights to Phuket from Mumbai and Bengaluru on January 5 and February 28 of next year, respectively.
IndiGo’s Mumbai-Phuket frequency will increase from seven to 13 per week, and the airline will add another route from Phuket. This also allows the airline to anticipate Air India’s prospective arrival into the Mumbai-Phuket route.
IndiGo‘s weekly frequency to Thailand from India will increase from 44 to 56, trailing only Thai Airways, which operates 68 weekly frequencies to India, albeit with more seats available since it deploys wide-body aircraft on most routes to India.
Various online travel agencies have reported a search for visa-free countries ranging from 20% to 80%.
Indians can currently travel visa-free to Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka. While most of these did not have a lengthy visa procedure, with several also offering visa on arrival (paid), the appeal of visa-free travel is far and beyond.
“Countries that have removed visa requirements for Indian travelers, such as Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and now Malaysia, have seen a 30%+ increase in searches and bookings on our platform,” said Rajesh Magow, Co-Founder & Group CEO, MakeMyTrip.
Positive traction, according to Magow, is in line with expectations, as visa-free entrance, facilitated by enabling factors such as the availability of direct flights, decreases both difficulties and expenses.A family of four traveling to Thailand, for example, would pay approximately US$2400 for a visa.
As a result, it’s not unexpected that Thailand, despite already having a significant number of visitors, has witnessed an increase in bookings. The consistent week-on-week patterns confirm that the uptick is real and will continue,” he noted.
The pre-Diwali quiet caused a reshuffling of air tickets, with airlines launching specials and cutting fares in search of passengers. As demand for these routes grows, Indian airlines are running out of planes to deploy on them.
With repeated groundings beginning in January, IndiGo confronts an overall issue, while Air India is inducting planes but does not have spare wide body capacity to offer more tickets.
Even with the news of capital injection, SpiceJet will be unable to rapidly capture the market. Currently, Akasa Air does not have rights to Thailand.
Visa-free travel is only available until May 2024, which does not include the full prime summer vacation season. By the time airlines reply, the visa-free period may have expired; would Thailand extend it in light of the rush?
Airlines may be content not to add capacity, which means that fares will rise significantly, but there will be a tipping point.
The money saved on visas should not be spent on flying prices; otherwise, Thailand would compete with Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka – countries with coastlines but diverse specialties, all surrounded by natural beauty.
Thailand is the only country where Indian carriers have been able to capitalize on this unexpected surge. In Malaysia and Vietnam, Indian airlines have a very limited presence, but Sri Lanka is a mixed bag.