By Kitchana Lersakvanitchakul
Thousands of fans turn out to celebrate the anniversary of Samui's airport
Local music fans and holidaymakers made their way to Chaweng Reservoir on Koh Samui last Friday for the Blue Paradise Festival, many of them making their way to the front stage to catch a glimpse of hot Thai actors Sukollawat “Weir” Kanarot, Phupoom “Ken” Phongpanu and Mario Maurer.
The festival, which marked Samui Airport’s 24th anniversary, also included a fun park and a food area. Queue quickly formed at the fun park for the rides, with the Ferris Wheels and Reverse Bungy proving particularly popular. Percussionists and clowns entertained fairgoers at the gate.
The concert started as darkness fell, opening with “Welcome to the Blue Paradise” featuring Katreeya English and Ben Chalathit. Weir, Ken and Mario were next to make an appearance and were followed on stage by Billy Ogan in the segment dubbed “Adventurous Paradise.” “Ultimate Paradise” was presented by J Jetrin, Joey Boy & Gancore Club and the music wrapped with “We Are Paradise” by rock band Blackhead & Friend.
“There are the exclusive concessions on all air routes,” said Bangkok Airways’ president Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth, chatting to The Nation during the show. “Thai Airways International is the country’s main airline and flies on main routes like Chiang Mai, Phuket, Surat Thani and Hat Yai. Back then, we were a brand new airline and needed routes that didn’t overlap with Thai Airways.
“In the beginning, we started flights to Nakhon Ratchasima, Surin and Krabi but they didn’t draw a large number of passengers. So we looked for other interesting destinations and found Koh Samui was attracting an increasing number of foreigners even though the island wasn’t very developed. Our first flights were via Surat so the first thing we did was introduce a direct flight to shorten the travel time.”
The airport opened in 1989 on less than 3,400 rai and featured just a runway and a small passenger terminal building. It’s since been expanded to meet demand.
“It wasn’t easy for a private company to provide a long narrow piece of land for landing and taking off because we couldn’t use the Land Expropriation Act like the government,” Puttipong says. “We were running a few flights every day, with each plane carrying just 30 passengers. We made our first foray into jet aircraft with 140 seats in 2000. Today, the runway is more than 2,000 metres long and as we can’t extend it, we’ve increased the number of flights to cope with passenger demand.”
Frequently described by visitors as “the most beautiful airport in the world”, the award-winning Koh Samui Airport proves that it is possible to be both environmentally friendly and aesthetically pleasing.
A low-rise development with thatched roofs, palm-tree pillars and wooden and rattan walls in an open-air layout that blends with its coconut-plantation surroundings, the airport has won an Environment Impact Assessment Award for its use of locally produced palm leaves and natural, open-air cooling system.
“We wanted to make tourists feel as though they were arriving at a tropical island so the structure is made of wood and the roof is covered by Vetiver grass and a garden. Trees and ponds provide the fences instead of metal and glass gates,” says the president.
After 24 years, Puttipong is constantly looking for more facilities to satisfy tourists and exploring technologies to develop his airport. The airline is also involved in the Samui community project, “the green island”.
“We’re going to be launching our campaign, announcing to passengers that we are collaborating with Samui residents people make Koh Samui a green island. We would like them to help to take care of environment.”