Bangkok — Thai Lion Air, a unit of Indonesian budget carrier the Lion Air Group, plans to open a new route between Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok and Adisumarmo International Airport in Solo, Central Java, to boost tourism to the archipelago. The plan is based on a request by Tourism Minister Arief Yahya, who met with Thai Lion Air managing director Darsito Hendroseputro during the World Tourism and Travel Council (WTTC) summit in Bangkok on Wednesday (26/04). “I would like Thai Lion Air to open a new air route from Bangkok or any of Thailand’s secondary cities to Indonesia’s secondary cities like Solo. Slots at Solo’s Adisumarmo airport for international flights are still available,” Arief said. Darsito responded positively to the tourism ministry’s request by saying that he would arrange the airport slots with the managements of both Don Mueang and Adisumarmo airports. He would also request cooperation wih Lion Air Group cofounder Rusdi Kirana in a bid for the airport slots. “We would like assistance on application for the airport slots,” Darsito said. Meanwhile, Thailand’s Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said she would assist Thai Lion Air to apply for slots at Don Mueang airport. Darsito expressed optimism over the new route, saying that it will help boost tourist arrivals in Indonesia, particularly by Chinese tourists who visit Thailand. He pointed out that Chinese traveling habits have changed as the country’s economy keeps growing. They now tend to visit several places in one trip, and Thailand is usually the first stopover before they travel somewhere else. He suggested joint promotions with travel agents of Indonesian destinations. In response to Darsito’s comment, Arief said the main destinations being promoted are Borobudur Temple and the so-called Joglosemar area – a contraction of Jogyakarta, Solo and Semarang (Central Java). Arief said the ministry could attract some of the huge number of Chinese tourists visiting Thailand to also visit Indonesia considering the short distance between the two countries. “There are about 30 million international tourists in Thailand. One third of them are Chinese. Flights [from Bangkok] only take three hours to Jakarta and four hours to Bali. So, it is still considered a medium distance for travelers,” the minister said. Robert Waloni, an expert on air connectivity at the Tourism Ministry, added that Thailand will be a huge market for tourism, and Adisumarmo airport will be more than ready to welcome them because it is big enough to accommodate the flights.