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Lanna hopes to foster Phuket-Chiang Mai trade

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Lanna hopes to foster Phuket-Chiang Mai trade | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: Tourism officials from northern provinces are hoping that a scheme to circulate tourists within the country will lead to better trade connections between Chiang Mai and Phuket.

Samroeng Chaisen, head of the ‘Office of Strategy Management Upper Northern Provincial Cluster 1’, Supawan Teerarat of the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau, and other relevant officers met on June 16 to promote the Fourth Annual Lanna Expo to be held in Chiang Mai next month, where they expect to garner an estimated 3 billion baht for the northern province’s economy.

Officials said that an estimated 2,000 visitors from the Andaman area will travel north for the Lanna Expo this year, and that they expect 1bn baht to be earned in spa and wellness commodities.

“The purpose of this event is to promote the locale, as well as the entrepreneurial stimulus products that fall under the One Tambon One Product (OTOP) subsidies,” said Mr Samroeng.

Officials said Phuket is the major target of the expo, as spas and hotel businesses in Phuket are major buyers of northern wellness products.

“With this expo we expect to build more connections between the north and the Andaman. We want the spa businesses in Phuket to attend, as they’ll have more products to choose from. The new policy of the government is to spread tourists across the nation, by promoting unique elements of each province. That way, money will flow all over the country,” Mr Samroeng said.

“Phuket is in the middle of the rainy season now, but in the north it’s spring. Fruits and vegetables are growing well, and it’s a great time for tourists to visit Chiang Mai. And we’re encouraging tourists to go to Phuket from Chiang Mai during the summer season,” he added.

The event is being held June 30-July 6 at the Chiang Mai International Exhibition and Convention Center.

“This year’s theme is Lanna Health and Wellness, under the slogan ‘Lanna, Endless Charm’. The event will feature cosmetic and herbal spa products, herbal nutrition and medications, handicrafts, OTOP products, and other tourism services,” he added.

— Kongleaphy Keam

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Crime

Prohibition activist criticises unequal enforcement of Thai alcohol laws

The Thaiger

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Prohibition activist criticises unequal enforcement of Thai alcohol laws | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Thaiger

The head of the prohibitionist Alcohol Watch Network is criticising the Office of Alcohol Beverage Control and police for looking the other way after ML Piyapas Bhirombhakdi posted a photo of herself showing off a branded bottle of an alcoholic drink on her Instagram profile (the picture has since been deleted). Piyapas is not only a great-granddaughter of HRH Prince Nares Varariddhi, a son of HM King Rama IV, but is the wife of Chutinant Bhirombhakdi, an heir to the Boon Rawd Brewery fortune and executive vice president of Singha Corp. Her post showed her holding a new Boon Rawd product.

Kamron Choodecha argues that the bottle and brand were clearly visible and, given that Piyapas has a vested interest in Boon Rawd’s sales, her post must be construed as sales or marketing, violating the Alcohol Beverage Control Act, which prohibits any sort of alcohol marketing online. He claims the fact she has not been fined, even as police extract hundreds of thousands of baht in fines from ordinary people posting harmless photos of themselves enjoying alcoholic beverages, shows the inequality in Thai society and the privilege elites are given when it comes to the law.

Others may argue, however, that the hypocrisy of the incident illustrates only how ludicrous the law is. Sporadically enforced over the years, the law again made headlines this year when foreign-managed alcohol distributor Beervana was fined 50,000 baht for an online post describing one of its products as “refreshing,” which contravened a ban on adjectives in marketing copy.

In the days that followed reports surfaced across the country of the OABC and police summoning people and slapping them with huge fines for posts that had no connection to sales or marketing.

Most recently, a young woman in Thailand’s South was fined 17,000 baht for posting a photo of a beer she liked to a beer fan page. The page owner was so outraged that he paid 5,000 baht of the fine and met face to face with regulators to protest the law.

Even Kamron, an anti-alcohol zealot, admits that the law is being misused by police and authorities. He says simply using the word “beer” or posting photos of bottles or glasses does not break the law, as long as brands are not shown. He believes the law’s intent is only to prevent advertising of alcoholic beverages on conventional and social media platforms. He argues that if the poster had no commercial intent, no one should be fined.

“But if authorities are going to strictly interpret the law, distant royal relatives or any other elite member of society should be punished equally.”

By the way there is an alcohol ban on for the next two days.

2 Buddhist holidays, Asahna Bucha Day and the start of Buddhist Lent, fall this weekend, and as a result the government has added Monday, July 6, as a national holiday. There will be an alcohol ban on the Sunday (July 5) and Monday (July 6). No alcohol will be sold or served on these days.

Prohibition activist criticises unequal enforcement of Thai alcohol laws | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Nation Thailand

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Bangkok’s shopping malls struggle under tourist ban, fierce competition

Jack Burton

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Bangkok’s shopping malls struggle under tourist ban, fierce competition | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Nerdnomads

Suvarnabhumi, the name of Bangkok’s second international airport, means “realm of gold,” and was given by His Majesty the late King Rama IX to Bangkok’s eastern outskirts (technically in Samut Prakhan province), once a marshland called Nong Nguhao (Cobra Swamp). With its overtones of wealth, the name represents the hopes of developers, who are turning the area into a retail battlefield.

The problem is oversupply. In late June, multitudes of of shoppers eager for a new experience after weeks of Covid-19 lockdown came to the grand opening of Siam Premium Outlets Bangkok, a brand new mall less than 10 kilometres east of the airport, the main gateway to Southeast Asia’s second largest economy.

The mood was festive for the debut of the massive project, a collaborative effort by Thai mall operator Siam Piwat and US conglomerate Simon Property Group. The joint venture invested 4 billion baht to accommodate an anticipated 10,000 visitors per day in the mall’s 50,000 square metres of floor space.

Siam Piwat Simon’s managing director says “Premium outlet is a retail trend that still has potential to grow”. He believes that growth will reinforce Thailand as one of the world’s most popular tourism destinations. But given the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s hard to imagine a tougher time to open a mall. The foreign tourists whose spending would normally ensure the success of a new shopping complex are being kept out as the government still bans most international arrivals.

When tourists do return, their numbers and mobility may be limited, and competition among major retailers around Suvarnabhumi will enter a new, more intense chapter. Rivalries between central Bangkok’s many malls and those emerging around the airport will also heat up. There’s plenty of shopping for bored travellers waiting for flights inside the main airport as well.

Some analysts predict the “new normal”, requiring social distancing and limiting customer numbers that could result in significant shrinkage in physical store offerings. The head of retail advisory and transaction services at CBRE Thailand says retailers’ rental space requirement may be reduced by 20 – 40% from the levels before the pandemic. Still, nearly 1.3 million square metres of new retail space is expected in Bangkok by the end of 2023 – more than 25 times the size of Siam Premium Outlets Bangkok. That many commercial facilities opening in a span of just 3½ years is sure to add plenty of new challenges to the retail landscape. According to a spokesman for the Thai Retailers’ Association…

“Premium outlets are business in an upward trend, while duty-free shops are the opposite. In the future, there will be no tax because of free trade agreements. And tourist behaviour is changing. They don’t want to pay a lot of money for short-lifecycle goods. They would buy more goods from premium outlets rather than duty-free shops, where goods are more expensive.”

Thailand has been benefitting from growing overseas tourism, led by the Chinese with their formidable purchasing power, which was booming until the pandemic. According to a report by the World Tourism Organisation, in 2018 the kingdom was the ninth most visited country by tourists in the world, and second after China in Asia. Thailand’s visitors in 2019 were close to 40 million.

Bangkok's shopping malls struggle under tourist ban, fierce competition | News by The Thaiger

The turf war near Suvarnabhumi is essentially an extension of the fierce retail competition in central Bangkok, where retailers are also highly dependent on overseas visitors. Siam Piwat introduced mega mall Iconsiam on the east bank of Chao Phraya river, as a joint project with Thailand’s largest conglomerate CP Group and its property arm Magnolia Quality Development, in November 2018. Siam Piwat co-owns Siam Paragon with another retailer, The Mall Group, which also developed Emporium and EmQuartier department stores. Central Group, including Central Pattana, runs Central World and Central Chidlom.

More projects are in the pipeline. Magnolia Quality Development is working on one called The Forestias, scheduled to be completed by 2023. The US$4 billion (124 billion baht) project is on track to be the largest property investment in the kingdom’s history.

Whether in Bangkok proper or near Suvarnabhumi Airport, all major retail complexes have one thing in common: they’re counting the days until the foreign tourist inflow returns. The Tourism Authority of Thailand came up with a plan to promote domestic tourism packages to mitigate the impact from the lack of overseas travellers, but Thais’ spending power is limited compared to that of foreign tourists.

Although the coronavirus situation in the kingdom is well in hand, the risk of a second wave has the world on edge, even as some countries such as the US and Brazil struggle to rein in their first wave. The outlook for Thailand’s big bet on the return of inbound demand is fraught with uncertainty. The “Realm of Gold” that welcomes travellers may not be quite so precious for some time to come.

Bangkok's shopping malls struggle under tourist ban, fierce competition | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: Nikkei Asian Review

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Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai International Airport sees more traffic

Jack Burton

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Chiang Mai International Airport sees more traffic | The Thaiger
PHOTO: mychiangmaitravel.com

Northern Thailand’s gateway airport is recovering some of its flight and passenger traffic. With the easing of travel restrictions enforced to fight the spread of Covid-19, the director of Chiang Mai’s international airport says traffic is picking up, and more flights and passengers are expected this month. On average, the airport received 40 flights and about 4,000-5,000 passengers per day last month. The number of flights is expected to rise to an average of 68 a day, and passenger figures are predicted to jump 50% this month.

Currently, flights operate only on domestic routes including those between Chiang Mai and other hub airports: U-Tapao, Hat Yai, Ubon Ratchathani, and Udon Thani. International flights are likely to return slowly after the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand announced the lifting of the ban on international flights, under a set of restriction, effective on June 29.

Analysts agree inbound flights will not quickly return to pre-Covid levels, as air travel to and from the main markets remains suspended.

The CAAT’s announcement coincided with the release of the International Air Transport Association’s figures for passenger demand in May, which dropped 91.3% compared to the same time last year. This was a mild improvement from the 94% annual decline recorded in April.

The IATA’s director-general and CEO, says there’s tremendous uncertainty about what impact a resurgence of Covid-19 cases in key markets could have.

“May was not quite as terrible as April. That’s about the best thing that can be said.”

International passenger demand fell 98.3% year on year in May, virtually unchanged from the 98.4% recorded in April. Capacity plummeted 95.3%, and load factor sank 51.9 percentage points to 28.6%, meaning just over a quarter of seats, on average, were filled.

Financially struggling Thai Airways said yesterday, that its passenger numbers fell by 4.5 million to 3.5 million in the first 5 months of the year. The airline’s cabin factor, the percentage of available seating capacity actually filled by passengers, tumbled to 69%, down from 78% in the same period last year.

The figures were calculated before the national flag carrier suspended all flights in early May due to the pandemic, although the airline had already been in the red long before that. With a debt burden of 244.9 billion baht, the airline is awaiting the Central Bankruptcy Court’s decision on whether to admit its petition for debt rehabilitation on Aug 18. If the court accepts the case for a hearing, a rehab plan will be drawn up – subject to approval from creditors.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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