Hopping on for new tourism business

Hop-on hop-off buses only recently took off in Bangkok. The pioneering player in Bangkok discusses his inspiration for jumping into the business, and addresses perceived challenges with congestion in the city.

Charnwit Kanchanawat

It’s possible for tourists to visit around 18 major sites within a day in attractions-filled Bangkok, but existing transport options are still not up to standard, driving Charnwit Kanchanawat to launch Amazing Bus Tour, the city’s first operator of a hop-on hop-off service in Bangkok last year.

Even though tourists visiting the Thai capital have many options to get around, few are ideal. Charnwit said riding tuk tuk can be expensive while taking taxi can take hours in the Bangkok traffic. There is also the risk of encountering unscrupulous drivers.

Charnwit Kanchanawat

Amazing Bus Tour was launched in September 2018, months ahead of another two rivals, including a tuk tuk hop-on hop-off. Before this, Charnwit had been in the business of exporting hydroponic vegetables for about 15 years.

“Inspired by my personal experiencing while studying in the UK and travels abroad, I (thought to myself that) Bangkok should have a good one-stop service for city tours, where customers can easily visit more attractions.”

“Overseas hop-on, hop-off do not have much onboard service but we do. We have travel experts on the bus to explain attractions and assist customers,” he said.

With a total investment of 48 million baht (US$1.5 million), the bulk of which went into importing 10 new and environmentally friendly buses.

The company currently uses half the fleet for its first route, departing from Siam Paragon to 17 major attractions including Chinatown, Chao Phrya River Walk, Giant Swing, Bang Lumpoo, Marble Temple Golden Mount, Silom, Little India and Khao San.

When asked if the city’s traffic congestion may present difficulties, Charnwit said the road conditions in Bangkok’s old town is not as bad compared to other areas.

The main proposition is greater convenience and better accessibility for the self-travelling, he said.

“Tourists spend less money but are able to visit up to 18 attractions within one day. This is only made possible by a city tour bus.”

It costs 850 baht for a 24-hour ticket, 1,150 baht for 48 hours, and 1,350 baht for 72 hours. Children rates are about half the adult fare.

For now, more than 80 per cent of demand is for the 24-hour option.

Months after Charnwit brought the concept to Bangkok, Giants City Tour rose to popularity among foreign tourists mainly from the UK, Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia, the US, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

Giants City Tour currently penetrates the markets though online channels including OTAs. It also markets offline through distributing collaterals to hotels, coffee shops, restaurants and attractions.

The company plans to add one more route this year focusing on heritage sites. It will soon launch an application to reach more young tourists and FITs, as well as new markets through introducing foreign languages such as Japanese and Chinese.

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