New southern airport welcomes first flight

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha presided over the inaugural-flight ceremony of Betong Airport in southern Yala province and welcome the airport’s first commercial passenger flight earlier this week.

The Prime Minister was accompanied by his Deputy Anutin Charnvirakul and Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda.

Government Spokesman, Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, said that the government aims to promote Betong, Thailand’s southernmost district, as a tourism destination. Starting with the newly opened airport of 1,800-metre runway and 7,000-sqare-metre passenger terminal area. Smaller turboprop aircrafts such as ATR-72s and Bombardier Q-400s could land here.

Thanakorn added that prior to the airport’s launch, Betong district was only reachable by a road which cuts through mountains, so the government hopes for the airport to continue improving the district’s connectivity and linking it with the rest of the country.

In line with the national policy to continuously improve the country’s transport infrastructure, the air link to Betong provides a safe and convenient alternative to road travel, as well as raise hope to revitalise tourism and the economy in the country’s southernmost district.

The airport also has the potential to become a hub for regional flights between Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

Narin Ruengwongsak, Vice President of the Betong Tourism Business Association, said the airport’s opening puts Betong in high relief on the tourism map. He added that tourism businesses in nearby provinces had inquired about the planned opening and are now preparing tour packages to receive more customers from Bangkok and beyond.

The new facility is estimated to help double the number of tourist arrivals in Betong, which currently stands at 2,000 a day.

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