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U-Tapao airport maintenance facility going ahead despite obstacles

The Thaiger & The Nation

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U-Tapao airport maintenance facility going ahead despite obstacles | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thailand construction
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U-Tapao Rayong-Pattaya International airport is going ahead with its proposed Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul project, despite Thai Airways entering bankruptcy, according to the secretary general of the Eastern Economic Corridor Office. The 11 billion baht project to has already been approved by the Cabinet and a contract is expected to be signed in June.

“In early June, project owner the Royal Thai Navy will sign a contract with bid winner BBS Joint Venture, which comprises BTS Group Holdings, Bangkok Airways and Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction. Meanwhile, the Aeropolis development project in a 30 kilometre radius around the airport was awarded to Narita International Airport Corporation, and is expected to be complete by 2023, coinciding with the opening of the MRO facility.”

There was wide speculation that the MRO project would be delayed after European aerospace giant Airbus withdrew from the joint venture. The Covid-19 outbreak and Thai Airways’ recently announced bankruptcy did little to assuage those fears. But the secretary-general says “the MRO project will proceed as planned as it is a part of government’s mega-project to develop the Eastern Economic Corridor.”

“Airbus pulling out of the joint venture is not a problem, as 4 or 5 companies have reached out to the EECO expressing their interest in the project.”

The EECO also estimates that when the Covid-19 outbreak is over, air transport of goods will recover within a year and a half, although they estimate that passenger travel will take 2 years to return to normal.

“Therefore, the outbreak should not affect the project’s time frame, which is scheduled to be completed within 2023.”

The project is forecast to generate 15,600 jobs annually for the first 5 years and total revenues estimated at 1.3 trillion baht throughout the 50 year term of the contract.

SOURCES: Nation Thailand | Thai PBS World

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thai food giant to provide a million meals priced at 20 baht

May Taylor

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Thai food giant to provide a million meals priced at 20 baht | The Thaiger
PHOTO: CP Freshmart Phetchaburi/Facebook

Thai food conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Foods says it plans to offer heavily discounted ready-to-eat meals for those facing financial difficulties as a result of the economic fallout of Covid-19.

CEO Prasit Boondoungprasert says a million meals will be distributed to Fresh Mart shops around the country and will cost just 20 baht. There will be a choice of dishes on offer and customers who purchase 5 meals at a time using the TrueWallet app will get an additional 5 baht discount .

“Six ready-to-eat meals will be offered under the campaign – rice with chicken breast in spicy sauce, rice with roasted chicken, rice with spicy chicken, fried rice with Korean-style roasted chicken, rice with garlic and liver and rice with omlette.”

Nation Thailand reports that CPF is also delivering free food to impoverished homes in Bangkok on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and distributing vouchers to village healthcare volunteers around the country so they can purchase items at discounted prices at Fresh Mart branches nationwide.

Charoen Pokphand Foods Public Company Limited a company of the Charoen Pokphand Group, is an agro-industrial and food conglomerate headquartered in Thailand. Approximately 64% of its revenue came from overseas operations, with 30% from its home market of Thailand, and 6% from export operations. It recently acquired Bellisio Foods, one of the largest frozen food suppliers in the United States, for US$1 billion, as well as Westbridge Foods, a major British poultry producer with turnover of over £340 Million.

The company’s core businesses are livestock and aquaculture. Livestock operations include chicken broilers, chicken layers, ducks, and swine. In aquaculture, the two main marine animals are shrimp and fish – Wikipedia.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Politics

Opposition criticises Thai government over economic toll of Covid response

May Taylor

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Opposition criticises Thai government over economic toll of Covid response | The Thaiger
PHOTO: AFP

Opposition party Pheu Thai has condemned the government’s management of the Covid-19 crisis, saying total shutdown has had a devastating effect on the country’s economy. In a report in Nation Thailand, Paopoom Rojanasakul, vice secretary-general of the party says the hard-hitting restrictions imposed across the country have led to high unemployment, with the International Monetary Fund saying Thailand’s economy is the worst-affected in the region.

He adds that the IMF is predicting the economy here will shrink by 6.7%, saying Thailand has one of the world’s most negative GDP forecasts, despite appearing to have brought the virus under control quite quickly.

“The question that arises is, if Thailand has controlled the outbreak quicker than the other others, why is its economy worse hit than the others?”

Paopoom says the decision to essentially shut down the economy in the early stages of the outbreak is what caused the damage, not simply the fact that economic performance is dependent on the global economy as a whole. Pheu Thai says the government must act now to stop businesses from going under and to save jobs, saying the government got it wrong when it allowed employers to terminate their workers’ positions.

The party says employers should receive financial incentives to encourage them to keep their staff employed. Paopoom adds that what’s required is a policy of balanced measures that keep the economy running at the same time as the virus is being brought under control.

“The winner of this battle is a balanced state that can control the outbreak while also sustaining the economy until the world has a vaccine.”

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Tourism

Phuket’s lost summer – looking to 2021 for tourism recovery

The Thaiger

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Phuket’s lost summer – looking to 2021 for tourism recovery | The Thaiger
PHOTO: "Now is the summer of our discontent" - Phuket People's Voice

In a solemn recognition of the reality of Phuket’s stalled tourist industry, a spokesperson for the southern chapter of the Thai Hotels Association is saying most of the west coast hotels are unlikely to reopen until the last quarter of this year. And that’s just the start of the problems for the popular island beach resort.

For now, Phuket’s International Airport remains closed to scheduled flights, and the Tha Chatchai road checkpoint at the top of the island is heavily curating who comes in and out with red-tape and paperwork. Nationally, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand has already banned international travel into Thailand until at least the end of June – it could be extended further.

Phuket’s issue, as an economy that revolves almost completely around tourism, is that, even if it throws open the immigration gates at the airport and the doors of its almost 100,000 hotel and accommodation rooms, there are few options for incoming tourists at this stage. Where will they come from? Europe (including the UK), the US and now South America, are mired in their own pandemic outbreaks, and whilst trying to reopen their economies, are facing imminent second waves of Covid-19. It’s unlikely the risk-averse Thais will willingly welcome ‘at risk’ countries back any time soon.

It’s only a few regional customers that are likely to be given approval to fly their businesspeople and tourists into Thailand anytime soon, but even that is going to be a trickle at best, at least in the short to medium term. Even these tourist markets have seen their economies hit hard by the pandemic and will be less likely to prioritise travel at this early stage – China, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore.

Whilst other parts of Thailand have opportunities to reopen their businesses – manufacture, agriculture, IT, and large chunks of populations visit shops and general trading – Phuket has little of that. Some 50,000+ of the island’s 450,000 permanent population have already departed the island, either before the borders were closed in mid-March, or as soon as they were able to return to their provinces when the road border re-opened for repatriating people at the start of May.

Even survey respondents, testing the opportunities for the island to reopen to domestic traffic to kick-start the stalled tourist economy, have shown little interest in heading to Phuket as the rest of Thailand has, well frankly, more important things to worry about. Since Phuket’s own lockdown restrictions have been lifted, early ‘staycation’ promotions, attracting locals for a bit of post-lockdown leisure, have fallen flat. For now, Phuket’s beaches remain closed anyway.

c9hotelworks‘ Bill Barnett, says “Phuket’s hardest yards for tourism are still in front of us and the loss of jobs will be enormous. No candy coating here.”

“Hotel operators and owners, are now reassessing the need for a quick return to reopen and from our talks, many are looking at pushing back to October or even later given the economics simply do not add up.”

“Even the domestic thrust of staycations are unlikely to provide the traction larger hotels need to scale up. Domestic business for island hotels on a broad basis is sub 10% of the market mix. For smaller hotels, targeting domestic is fishing where the fish are, and makes absolute sense.”

Suksit Suvunditkul, CEO of Deevana Hotels and the vice-president of the Thai Hotels Association southern chapter, says that hotels along the beach that target international guests will reopen in September at the earliest. Speaking to Bangkok Post, he says that the situation remains unpredictable.

“….but as July and August are low season, resuming operations is not worth the effort while guest demand is still weak. With some hotels not reopening until the fourth quarter, they cannot expect to profit.”

Forecasts from the Tourism Authority of Thailand say that the rest of 2020 will be mostly limited to domestic tourism, “with the Asian market starting to recover at the beginning of next year and the European market to follow much later”.

But, for now, hotels are still shuttered as management wait in hope for signs that they are, firstly, allowed to reopen and, secondly, the barriers are removed to international travel. The other main hurdle is the paperwork or restriction that will be imposed on inbound tourists. It’s hard to imagine tourists will be wanting to pack their flowery shirts, hats and suncream to end up having to submit long lists of paperwork and health checks before they arrive.

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