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Samui set for Chinese boom with new flights

The Thai resort island of Koh Samui could be set for an influx of Chinese visitors in future, with the launch of a series of new flights. Tibet Airlines recently announced plans to launch direct flights connecting Chengdu with Koh Samui, and Bangkok Airways is looking to add a series of new Chinese connections to the island. The Bangkok Post reported this week that Bangkok Airways has been given the green light to launch four weekly direct flights between Samui and Chengdu. Combined with Tibet Airlines’ three weekly services, this will mean that a total of seven weekly flights will operate between Samui and Sichuan’s provincial capital from next month. One of the largest cities in Western China, Chengdu is home to approximately 10 million people. The new flights will be able to carry up to 4,000 Chinese visitors to the island each month. In addition to the Chengdu flights, Bangkok Airways is planning to launch direct flights to Samui from two other major Chinese cities – Guangzhou and Chongqing – by the end of 2016. The Bangkok Post reports that the Guangzhou service will operate daily while the Chongqing route will run three times a week. Speaking to the newspaper, Bangkok Airways’ president, Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth, said his strategy is to “develop new traffic from Western Chinese regions that are remote from the sea.” Two other Chinese carriers, Lucky Air and Capital Airlines, currently operate services to Samui, from Kunming and Chongqing respectively, and China Southern Airlines operates seasonal charters to the island from Guangzhou. Mainland China is now by far the largest visitor source market for Thailand, with the country welcoming 7.9 million Chinese visitors in 2015.