Hopes are high that Thailand’s oldest beach town, Hua Hin, will soon become a bigger draw for overseas visitors as it gets a much-anticipated boost in air accessibility through a new international connection operated by AirAsia.
The Malaysia-based LCC last week announced the launch of four-times weekly flights linking Kuala Lumpur to Hua Hin from May 18, ending months of speculation among industry members over this new route.
Tom Thrussell, Centara’s vice president of brand, marketing and digital, commented: “I think this could be a good start and it will hopefully pave the way for even broader access in the future. The Asian markets who make short stays to Thailand have been less inclined to visit Hua Hin in the past because the journey time from Bangkok, at either end of a short stay, eats into too much of their break. This new accessibility will change that for one of these markets for now at least.”
This new international link will mark “a turning point for Hua Hin’s tourism fortunes”, believes David Barrett, chief executive of Bangkok-based DMC PIGS, making Hua Hin more popular among a younger international crowd.
Despite Hua Hin becoming “cooler” with more good bars and restaurants popping up, noted Kim Martin Rasmussen, product manager at Exo Travel Thailand, it is likely to remain a stronger draw for the Asian and domestic markets. Phuket and Koh Samui still remain the preferred destinations for Exo Travel’s agents and clients by far, he added.
That said, Hua Hin and neighbouring Cha-am in 2018 are already chalking up the same number of room nights as all of 2017, which will translate into an increase for Exo Travel overall for the destination this year, shared Rasmuseen. Most of the extra bookings this year will come from the UK, German and French markets, he added.
Franck Rodriguez, general manager of the newly opened Holiday Inn Vana Nava Hua Hin, is confident that the resort town is on its way to “becoming a more rounded destination”, pointing to the wide variety of products that Hua Hin currently offers, including meeting venues, international shopping centres, hospitals and an airport that just turned international.
The owning family of Holiday Inn Vana Nava Hua Hin, Proud Real Estate – which is also behind several high-profile developments like Vana Nava Water Park, True Arena sports complex, Bluport mall and an upcoming beach club – envisions a “cross-promotion” strategy to market Hua Hin to visitors, Rodriguez told TTG Asia.
Urging stronger destination marketing efforts for Hua Hin, Barrett added: “Over the past decade, Hua Hin has been promoted as a second-tier destination in Thailand for both leisure and MICE. Hopefully, with AirAsia paving the way with flights, Hua Hin will receive more promotional backing from the Tourism Authority of Thailand and tour operators.
“I would like to see greater cooperation between the private and government sectors, coming together to create a clear destination identity for Hua Hin,” he added. “Destination branding is key.”