A panel in charge of upgrading Suvarnabhumi airport has approved a major development scheme worth nearly 60 billion baht to support the post-Covid-19 recovery of air travel demand.
Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, the committee’s vice chairman, recently said the development project comprises the construction of three new terminals that are tentatively scheduled to be completed by 2024.
The terminals, known as the East Expansion, the West Expansion and the North Expansion, are expected to increase the airport’s annual passenger handling capacity by another 60 million.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the airport had become overloaded with passenger numbers, exceeding its annual capacity of 45 million. Covid-19 has caused a sharp decline in air traffic.
However, Mr Saksayam said the panel has decided to go ahead with the upgrade project to ensure the airport can cope when air travel demand bounces back after the pandemic.
“We are looking ahead because the country’s main source of income is from the travel industry and air passengers account for 80% of tourist arrivals,” he said. “Although the pandemic has disrupted air travel, vaccine campaigns are rolling out worldwide and the situation is expected to improve.”
The upgrade is also in line with the airport’s third runway development project. Once complete, the airport will be able to handle up to 90 flights per hour, as opposed to the current capacity of 68.
The East Expansion and the West Expansion schemes, each covering 66,000 square metres, will accommodate 30 million passengers each annually. Each project cost is estimated to be worth 7.83 billion baht.
The Northern expansion, covering 348,000 square metres, is expected to accommodate 30 million passengers annually. The project cost is estimated at 41.26 billion baht.
Mr Saksayam said the construction of the Satellite 1 passenger terminal is due to be completed next year and is expected to accommodate 15 million passengers annually.
The National and Economic and Social Development Council has initially agreed with the upgrade plan, he said.
The Airports of Thailand will seek opinions from the International Air Transport Association and the International Civil Aviation Organisation before the scheme is submitted to the cabinet for consideration in March.
In a separate announcement Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn says that each foreign visitor will soon be charged US$10 (300 baht) per visit. The details of the fee collection will be announced in the Royal Gazette once the policy has taken effect.
According to Mr Phiphat, Thailand expects to receive some 10 million visitors this year. He said the merit of the 300-baht tourism fee is that foreign tourists who fall sick or are injured will be taken care of and given adequate medical care. The ministry will have to discuss the details with the Finance Ministry and the Office of Insurance Commission.
Of the 300-baht fee, 34 baht is expected to be used for the insurance coverage, Mr Phiphat said. The fee collection is in line with the revised National Tourism Policy Act, which authorises the ministry to impose a tourism fee for use in developing local destinations and providing insurance coverage to foreign tourists.
Tourism permanent secretary Chote Trachu said the fee collection was initially due to begin last year, but it was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the National Tourism Policy Committee has assessed the situation and agreed the tourism fee collection should go ahead this year.