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Business as usual for bars, despite bans

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: Despite a handful of unexpected alcohol bans due to elections brought about by the ongoing, nationwide political protests, business seems to be barreling forward as usual in Phuket’s premier party town.

The Director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Anoma Wongyai, told the Gazette, “I think because the alcohol bans were short-lived, only one or two days long, they did not have a great effect on most businesses. Although some businesses, like bars and discos, whose revenues depend almost entirely on alcohol sales, were affected a little bit.”

So far this year, there have been eight alcohol bans, one of which was for a standard Buddhist-holiday prohibition, and two because of the originally-planned February 2 national election, which was ultimately shut down by protesters. This shutdown ushered in five additional, unexpected alcohol bans, creating unusually adverse circumstances for some nightlife venues.

Revenue on the weekends is higher than at any other time of the week, confirmed Weerawit Kurasombut, head of the Patong Entertainment Business Association, with Friday and Saturday nights boasting up to a 50 per cent increase during high season and a 20-30 per cent increase in the low season.

“The only day that seems to be busy year-round is Saturday. This is likely because in Western countries Saturday is the night to go out, so tourists do the same here,” one Patong bar owner told the Gazette.

A bar owner on Nanai Road has felt the weekend strain, and told the Gazette, “Our revenue has decreased a bit from the unexpected closures, since they happened to be on nights when we usually have a lot of business.”

Patong Municipality reported the total income in Patong last year as being about 472 million baht, with the average tourist spending 1,000 baht on a night out, added Mr Weerawit.

“The number of tourists coming to Patong has dropped quite a lot from last year, up to 20 per cent, as a result of the political and economic problems in Thailand. Moreover, many countries have been promoting their tourism, which provides many more holiday options for travelers,” said Mr Weerawit.

However, it seems that it is not the tourists, but the regulars that can make or break a bar.

“The difference in sales on the slower nights of the week depend on whether you have regulars coming in or not. In terms of tourist customers, I would say the difference in a slow and a busy night is a good 50 per cent,” said the Patong bar owner.

“A lot of places need a really good high season in order to cover the basic costs [such as rent, salaries and alcohol] during the low season. For me, it’s a bit different. I am in a decent location and I’ve been here for awhile, so I have revolving clientele who visit regularly, as well as a good, local customer base.”

But even income from regular customers can’t always cover everything in a bar’s revenue stream, especially when tourist numbers veer off course.

“As soon as Bangkok went down, so did the numbers. The beginning of high season was okay, but since the problems have escalated, my revenue has dropped a solid 40 per cent,” said the bar owner.

“I’m hoping that since the high season was not so great because of all the trip cancellations, the low season will show some of these people coming back to Thailand at a time they normally wouldn’t, making the season better than usual. I suppose time will tell.”

When the economy is thrown a curve ball like it has been so far this year, businesses without established customer bases could be hit harder than those that have a regular clientele. But even the seasoned bar owner knows that anything can happen.

For now it seems that despite a few more slow nights than normal, it is business as usual for the party town’s bars. Some will sink, and some will swim.

— Mauri Grant / Woranut Pechdee

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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The social media giants in battle with ‘old’ media and world governments | VIDEO

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The social media giants in battle with ‘old’ media and world governments | VIDEO | The Thaiger

“The rules signal greater willingness by countries around the world to rein in big tech firms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter that the governments fear have become too powerful with little accountability.”

India has issued strict new rules for Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms just weeks after the Indian government attempted to pressure Twitter to take down social media accounts it deemed, well, anti social.

The rules require any social media company to create three roles within India… a “compliance officer” who ensures they follow local laws; a “grievance officer” who addresses complaints from Indian social media users; and a “contact person” who can actually be contacted by lawyers and other aggrieved Indian parties… 24/7.

The companies are also being made to publish a compliance report each month with details about how many complaints they’ve received and the action they took.

They’ll also be required to remove ‘some’ types of content including “full or partial nudity,” any “sexual act” or “impersonations including morphed images”

The democratisation of the news model, with social media as its catalyst, will continue to baffle traditional media and governments who used to enjoy a level of control over what stories get told.

The battles of Google and Facebook, with the governments of India and Australia will be followed in plenty of other countries as well.

At the root of all discussions will be the difference between what governments THINK social media is all about and the reality about how quickly the media landscape has changed. You’ll get to read about it first, on a social media platform… probably on the screen you’re watching this news story right now.

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Turbulence ahead for Thailand’s aviation industry | VIDEO

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Turbulence ahead for Thailand’s aviation industry | VIDEO | The Thaiger

When the airlines, in particular, were asking the government to put their hands in their pockets for some relief funding in August last year, it was genuinely thought that international tourists would be coming back for the high season in December and January. At the very least local tourists and expats would head back to the skies over the traditional holiday break. And surely the Chinese would be back for Chinese New Year?

As we know now, none of that happened. A resurge in cases started just south of Bangkok on December 20 last year, just before Christmas, kicking off another round of restrictions, pretty much killing off any possibility of a high season ‘bump’ for the tourist industry. Airlines slashed flights from their schedule, and hotels, which had dusted off their reception desks for the surge of tourists, shut their doors again.

Domestically, the hotel business saw 6 million room nights in the government’s latest stimulus campaign fully redeemed. But the air ticket quota of 2 million seats still has over 1.3 million seats unused. Local tourists mostly skipped flights and opted for destinations within driving distance of their homes.

As for international tourism… well that still seems months or years away, even now.

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Domestic air passenger numbers double those of January

Maya Taylor

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Domestic air passenger numbers double those of January | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Vietjet

Passenger numbers on domestic flights within Thailand have doubled within a month, rising from 4,000 in January to over 10,000 this month. Having nearly recovered to pre-pandemic levels, domestic travel plummeted once more when Covid-19 resurfaced late last year.

Apirat Chaiwongnoi from the Department of Airports says 15 of Thailand’s 29 airports are now operating domestic flights, with more expected to follow. He believes the aviation sector will continue to recover further in the coming 6 months, bolstered by the national vaccine rollout.

Around 120 domestic flights a day are now operating, which is twice the number that were operating at the lowest point in the crisis. Prior to the resurgence of the virus in December, domestic passenger numbers had recovered to 30,000 – 40,000 a day, around 80% of pre-pandemic numbers.

The DoA says airports must continue to adhere to the Covid-19 hygiene measures put in place by the Health Ministry and the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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