Helping local economies grow: a case study of Sukhothai, Thailand

Sukhothai has been able to grow and diversify its economy beyond rice farming, thanks to the ATR air service, leading to growing living standards. Watch the full video:

Discovering cultural treasures

Sukhothai is an agricultural town, in north central Thailand, where most residents were largely involved in rice farming.

The town previously received very few tourists other than international backpackers who were drawn to Sukhothai’s heritage park, a UNESCO heritage site. The park contains 190 historical ruins from the ancient Sukhothai Kingdom, which ruled much of Thailand from 1238 to 1438. The Sukhothai Kingdom was later merged with other kingdoms to create what became Thailand. Sukhothai is credited with being the cradle of Thai culture and is, for example, where the Thai script began.

Bangkok Airways could see that Sukhothai had potential as a tourist destination. But the town had no airport and it took more than five hours to drive there from Bangkok, making it impractical for many international travellers.

Get connected

Bangkok Airways built an airport on the outskirts of Sukhothai and launched scheduled air services there using ATR aircraft. The airline flies to Sukhothai from Bangkok three times daily.

Bangkok Airways chose to use ATR aircraft because of its lower trip costs and fuel burn. It means the airline is able to serve Sukhothai profitably, with multiple daily frequencies, even if passenger volumes are low.

The Thai full-service carrier has nearly 30 codeshare partners. Bangkok Airways codeshare partners are flying into Bangkok at different times of day, so the Thai carrier needs to have multiple daily flights to each destination, so as to provide convenient connections for international travellers into Bangkok.

Bangkok Airways also needs to have multiple frequencies per day, so as to cater to local businesspeople wanting to travel between Sukhothai and Bangkok

Reaping the benefits of tourism

Bangkok Airways has steadily grown passenger traffic on the route to more than 80,000 passengers per annum. Average passenger load factor is more than 65%. Passengers are mix of local and international tourists as well as business travellers. Local businesspeople prefer to fly on the ATR between Bangkok and Sukhothai because it provides a comfortable, reliable and convenient service.

The economic benefits derived from tourism has also benefited the local Thai people. Some rice farmers and their children have been able to find new jobs in Sukhothai’s growing tourism industry. Sukhothai is now a popular tourist destination for those wanting to learn about Thailand’s rich history and culture.