Phuket to star in Bollywood

Indian film crew and entourage on way to Thai island – among 2,000 arriving on chartered flights with Go First carrier. Phuket chases India market as outbound China tour groups on hold

BOLLYWOOD is on its way to Phuket with the Thai island of providing the setting for scenes in a new film for audiences in India and worldwide.

Crew and actors from the famed Indian movie industry equivalent to Hollywood will be among about 2,000 Indian visitors to Phuket on 10 chartered flights between December 4 and January 10, 2022.

Paul Wu, Southeast Asia regional head for Go First airlines, told the “Outbound India – Restarting India’s Tourism to Thailand” webinar, organised  by Delivering Asia Communications and C9 Hotelworks, how the carrier was the first Indian carrier to resume flights to Phuket.

The Go First flight chartered by Dharma Productions, one of the largest Bollywood film companies, and other charters represent opportunities to widen the India market as travel restrictions in Phuket’s biggest overseas market, China, are on hold due to the global pandemic.

This will provide a major boost for the Phuket tourism industry, as once the movie is released it will show Phuket to Indian audiences,” Wu told the webinar held at the Laguna Phuket.

Wu added that Go First, formerly known as GoAir, was planning to launch scheduled flights to Phuket and Bangkok from several Indian cities, including Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai, with international restrictions expected to ease in January.

With a population of almost 1.4 billion people, India’s outbound market has the potential to transform any destination, the webinar was told. With Thailand a short flight away, India is regarded as “the catalyst the kingdom needs to kickstart its tourism industry”.

Prior to the global pandemic in 2019, 1.9 million Indians visited Thailand, according to C9 figures. While that marked a strong 22 per cent increase from 2018, it was just a fraction of the 12 million visitors from China, which now has outbound tourism on hold.  

“With the Chinese market now dampened, the Indian market is huge – not only for Phuket but for the whole of Thailand,” Ravi Chandran, CEO of Laguna Phuket, said.

“Pent-up demand is strong; India can be a good substitute for the Chinese market, especially in those low season months when we were reliant on China. We’re working with the airlines and agents in India, focusing on five major cities and putting together packages to suit them,” Chandran said.

Tour industry leaders on Phuket are also looking to the island’s strength as a sports tourism destination to help their industry to recover. Laguna Phuket recently hosted international beach volleyball and golf tournaments with two top Indian golfers, Jeev Milkha Singh and Shiv Kapur, in action.

The US$50 billion Indian wedding market is also in sight as the industry recovers with Ravi telling the webinar of Laguna Phuket receiving a surge in wedding inquires lately.

Sally Mangharam, managing director of Mantra Events, a Thailand-based wedding planner, said she was already taking bookings for 2022.

“There’s definitely a market, but it’s highly dependent on travel regulations and consumer confidence,” said Mangharam, adding that it would be “very helpful” if the Thai government could help subsidise the cost of PCR tests for inbound guests.

“I have six weddings confirmed between now and July; they’re very positive and want to come back to Thailand.”

The Indian outbound webinar was hosted by Bill Barnett, managing director of C9 Hotelworks, and David Johnson, CEO of Delivering Asia Communications.

The event also heard from Pinki Arora, marketing and PR representative of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) India; Stanley Rozario, marcom director for the Thai Indian Tourism Club and head of business development – Indian subcontinent market at Asian Trails; Heshan Peiris, corporate chef at Laguna Phuket; Ranjeet Viswanathan, director of sales and marketing at Hyatt Regency Phuket Resor,; and Nitin Sachdeva, CEO of venture marketing and India representative of the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB).

Main picture… Guests at an Indian wedding at Banyan Tree Phuket perform haldi dance a favourite with Bollywood movie fans

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