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Phuket Property Watch: Big bang of luxury

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Property Watch: Big bang of luxury | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: Welcome to rainy season in Phuket. It’s Friday morning as I ponder the sound of rain pelting down on the roof and it feels almost as if I’m in Syria taking incoming fire. My life is that of a minimalist. Give me a black t-shirt, shorts and a well worn pair of Sanuks. No watch, no jewelry, just an outdated Blackberry, which I make no apologies for.

At times though, I long for more. My wife always berates me for not bringing an umbrella outside on rainy days. Like today, as I sit here in my office after the heavens opened up and doused me like a water cannon on the mean streets of Istanbul. I’ve changed my status on Facebook to “Soggy”. Is more better? Or is more just more?

Asia remains out of step with the larger world. It always has, and probably always will. Maybe the date line has something to do with it, pulling an all-nighter is never a bad thing. Keeps you edgy, like playing with broken glass. Over in Hong Kong, Edward Snowden is doing long stretches without sleep, though, sadly, Gitmo looks to be on his horizon. Silence the lambs in a nutshell.

But dammit, I’m here to talk about Asia’s big bang of luxury and the tidal wave of “conspicuous consumption”. A long time ago in the 19th century, economist Thorstein Veblen coined the term in his tome The Theory of the Leisure Class. He somehow peaked behind the curtain of time to see what would evolve later in the 20th century and beyond into the burgeoning middle class, or as those more cynically inclined would call it; the consumer class.

Though when Veblen coined the term conspicuous consumption his critique was aimed more directly at the upper crust world of the “haves”. For those with money, suddenly objects of desire become cars, houses, second houses, travel and the finer things in life. Sure there was a blip in the 1960s and certainly Mao, Lenin, Castro and Uncle Ho tried to derail the gravy train, but the wall of consumerism was built on solid foundations well before the new millennium and there has been no looking back.

Here in Thailand, the surge of the upper class and a groundswell in the middle class has changed the world we live in forever.

Without doubt the poster boy for this episode is Steve Jobs, buy at higher prices, buy more and buy often.

Create the perception and feed the beast of consumerism. It’s abjectly brilliant and I have to admit to owning an Apple MacBook Air, and yes my iTunes account is very active.

Phuket has its own class warfare, the ultra wealthy with their villas, mega yachts and private jets, and the aspirational emerging consumer class who love those Cs – cars, condos, country clubs, credit cards and smart cellphones.

Yet luxury remains a fickle giant, and though the island has garnered a massive inventory of high net worth individuals, the battle to stay on top is never an easy one. So much is being written about sagging infrastructure, mass tourism and chaos at the beaches. While the government and tourism leaders talk the talk of wanting high-end travelers; the changing world is seeing more a shift to smaller and less pricy.

To say Phuket has a split personality or is conflicted is a given. Cheap shoebox condo hotels gather steam, alongside luxurious multi-million dollar ultra-villas – can we see a merge of the tribes here and cater to the rich, the want to be rich and those on a budget?

Tricky business. I spoke to someone who attended the trendy global chic travel show LE Miami and the feedback from the jet set is: that despite our Aman/Trisara/Andara/Sri Panwa foursome, the aisles were buzzing about Samui. Smaller, more exclusive, less crowded. Will the rich and famous leave us in our hour of need?

Probably not, as we have a mighty wind of new luxury brands opening hotels on the island over the next few years and Phuket is just such a strategic location. Yet on a broader canvas, conspicuous consumption now represents so much more than just real estate and travel – it’s an insatiable appetite for more, faster, newer and glossier.

It’s a different world we live in and I’m not entirely sure it’s a better place. Except for iTunes of course; and MacBooks.

Bill Barnett is the Managing Director of C9 Hotelworks and can be contacted through C9hotelworks.com.

Keep checking our online
Phuket Property pages, join our Facebook fan page or follow us on Twitter @PhuketGazette for the latest local, national and international property updates.

— Bill Barnett

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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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Governments & old media versus social media – who will win? | VIDEO

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Governments & old media versus social media – who will win? | VIDEO | The Thaiger

We look at the recent changes made by the Australian and Indian governments to except control over the world’s biggest social media platforms. 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. There is now an open battle between the rise of social media platforms and the governments and ‘old’ media that have been able to maintain a certain level of control over the ‘message’ for the last century. Who will win?

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 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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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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