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Thai travellers lap up Lijiang charters
Brian Higgs and Hong Xu, CITM, Shanghai, November 19, 2012

A SERIES of Bangkok-Lijiang charter flights operated by China Eastern Airlines three times fortnightly since September has proven popular with Thai tourists keen on visiting Yunnan province.


Launched by a consortium of outbound tour operators in Thailand including Quality Express, Dazhong Holiday, Holiday Seasons Travel and Four Seasons Travel, the charter flights will cease at the end of 2012, with a five-month extension on the cards in January.


Thanapol Cheewarattanaporn, managing director of Quality Express, told TTG Asia e-Daily that the flights were always fully booked. His company sends an average of 30-40 pax per flight to Lijiang, with the average budget ranging from 19,900 baht (US$647) for 5D4N to 27,900 baht for 6D5N, all-inclusive.


Programme highlights include visits to ancient towns and natural heritage sites such as Black Dragon Pool, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Lugu Lake and Tiger Leaping Gorge.


A Tourism Authority of Thailand official said the tourism markets of Yunnan and Thailand were complementary, and that the charter flights would help catalyse the development of bilateral tourism between the two destinations.


Ding Jianmin, assistant general manager, Shanghai China International Travel Service, said that Bangkok could even become a transit hub for longhaul traffic to Lijiang in the future.


“The four major transit hubs in Asia are Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bangkok. Since Bangkok is (very popular with) European travellers, I expect more Europeans to be keen on visiting Lijiang if regular scheduled services are introduced (on this route),” he said.


However, Quality Express’ Thanapol doubted that the Bangkok-Lijiang charter flights would be extended beyond their present cut-off date.


“There are already many scheduled flights operated by Thai Airways International, Orient Thai Airlines and even China Eastern from Bangkok to Kunming (the capital of Yunnan). These connections are much cheaper,” he explained.

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