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“This is not a hotel” – Share economy exploits loopholes

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“This is not a hotel” – Share economy exploits loopholes | The Thaiger

by Nophakhun Limsamarnphun

Explosion in short term rentals causes problems for hotels and reduces tax revenues.

Legal loopholes and lax regulation of the hotel business have led to a large number of unlicensed hotel operators and unregistered guests in major tourist destinations in Thailand, according to government and private sector officials. In addition, the widely-popular sharing economy has prompted new generations of property owners, consumers and holidaymakers to use online and mobile platforms to rent out their units or to book holiday rentals and other forms of accommodation.

Supawan Tanomkieatipume, president of the Thai Hotels Association, said the ‘sharing’ economy could not be stopped, because more and more consumers preferred to use these platforms rather than continuing to use the services of traditional hotels. However, she said, many hotel operators have also adopted the new technology behind the sharing economy and various online platforms to accommodate consumer behaviour changes.

“We’re not discriminating against online sharing and other platforms but we hope all the parties concerned abide by the law,” said Supawan.

The government is supposed to ensure that accommodation owners register their guests properly and follow other regulations on safety, as well as forwarding their guests’ identities to immigration authorities, she said. In addition, they are required to pay local and other taxes as licensed hotel operators do.

So far, the government has been lax on enforcing these regulations while the number of condominium and other privately owned accommodation units serving tourists and other guests continues to skyrocket. At present, the Interior Ministry and local government agencies have jurisdiction over hotel and other rental accommodation operators.

Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat says current Thai hotel law allows individual property owners a maximum of four rental rooms that can accommodate a maximum of 20 guests. They can operate like a hotel or other accommodation providers without having to register as operators.

This is seen as a legal loophole and has led to a fast-growing number of condo and apartment units being rented to tourists, especially in Bangkok and other popular tourist destinations, as online booking and sharing platforms experience phenomenal growth, including Airbnb, Booking.com and Agoda. Airbnb and Booking.com representatives could not be reached for comment.

Critics have said unregulated accommodation operators have contributed to the rise of visa overstayers and cross-border criminals using the country as a hiding outpost. According to Supawan, Thailand has about 300,000 to 400,000 licensed hotel rooms but the actual number of hotel rooms and other rentals being used is thought to be double those figures.

A huge but largely unknown number of hotels and other forms of accommodation are neither registered nor paying taxes properly, said Supawan. This has negatively affected law-abiding hoteliers due to the widespread unfair competition.

“We have reported this situation to the government which is losing a lot of tax revenues from these unregistered hotel and accommodation providers,” she said. Regarding Airbnb and similar private rental accommodation services, a court in Prachuap Khiri Khan province has ruled that renting out condo units to tourists is not legal.Udom Srimaha-chota, vice president of the THA and a hotel owner in the tourist resort of Hua Hin in Prachuap Khiri Khan, recently submitted a letter to the province’s governor, urging local authorities to take legal action against those turning their condo units and other private properties into daily tourist accommodation.

Udom said some condo projects in Hua Hin and other nearby resort towns were also allowing tourists to stay in their unsold rooms and charged them on a daily basis, in violation of the hotel business law. The unregulated service, says Udom, has led to safety, security and other problems for tourism and other authorities, since guests are not properly registered with local and immigration authorities. There is also no proper tax collection.

Many online and other advertisements promote condo units and apartment rooms as tourist accommodation in Hua Hin without having the proper licenses, Udom added. On the sharing economy, Weerasak said the fast-growing trend among tourists to use online platforms such as Airbnb for accommodation had multiple consequences. In his opinion, the sharing economy was supposed to enable people with surplus accommodation to rent it out but this was being widely abused.

“For example, you may rent out a room at your own house to guests but this has turned into a commercial activity for many people who buy or invest in multiple condo units and rent them out to tourists on a daily basis, just like hotels,” he said.

He admitted that there were legal loopholes in the Thai hotel business law, including an allowance for landlords to not need a hotel licence unless they had more than four rooms or guests exceeding a total of 20. In response to this trend, authorities have encouraged unlicensed operators to report their guests to authorities, but enforcement of this has not been strict.

Weerasak also noted that licensed hotel operators had faced unfair competition from these operators, who should be required to report the names of their guests to immigration officials as well as pay local government fees and taxes.

Furthermore, said Weerasak, there was also the matter of protecting other condominium residents, in particular the neighbours of units being rented out daily, whose quality of life was negatively |affected by the activities and behaviour of guests and tourists staying at the same building.

STORY: The Nation



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Plastics

Thailand to ban three kinds of plastic by end of this year

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Thailand to ban three kinds of plastic by end of this year | The Thaiger

By the end of 2019 Thailand will be free from three types of plastic – microbeads, cap seals and oxo-degradable plastics.

Then by 2022 four other types of single-use plastics will also be banned – lightweight plastic bags less than 36 microns thick; styrofoam food containers for takeaways; plastic cups and plastic straws – according to a road map approved by the Cabinet.

The Plastic Waste Management Road Map 2018-2030 also includes an ambitious plan for Thailand to use 100 per cent recycled plastic by 2027 in various forms, including turning waste into energy.

The Cabinet has acknowledged the road map and assigned the Natural Resource and Environment Ministry to formulate a draft action plan for plastic waste management, so it is in line with the 20-year national strategy.

Thailand to ban three kinds of plastic by end of this year | News by The Thaiger

The Cabinet also called for clear details on related agencies’ role in the integration of the work for managing plastic waste, which will also get huge participation from the private and business sectors. The related state agencies should create various mechanisms to propel this forward such as creating a good understanding among agencies, continuously implementing a public relations campaign via social media to achieve the set goals, the Cabinet instructed.

The work procedure must consider lifecycle plastic-waste management so steps are taken from the very start: with plastic products designed applying the “Eco Design” approach, manufacturing and post-consumption disposal which will include garbage separation, transport and storing, recycling and proper disposal.

According to the Department of Environmental Quality Promotion, Thais generate as much as 1.14 kilogram of garbage per head per day, contributing to the 27.04 million tonnes of waste per year.

One person uses approximately eight plastic bags a day – or 500 million plastic bags per day for the whole nation.

Most of the plastic waste ends up in the oceans, accounting for 16% of garbage in the seas.

SOURCE: The Nation

Thailand to ban three kinds of plastic by end of this year | News by The Thaiger

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Infamous ‘large’ passenger dies in Koh Samui

The Thaiger

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Infamous ‘large’ passenger dies in Koh Samui | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: The Sun

A 200 kilogram tourist, who forced flight crews to wipe his bum as he moaned with pleasure in January, has died on Koh Samui.

The American, who hasn’t been named, died whilst staying on the Gulf island due to an undisclosed illness. But he has left an indelible memory in his wake.

At the same time, as the news emerged about his demise, EVA Air were putting plans in motion to ban the oversize traveller from flying with their airline ever again.

The man shocked readers is January when he was accused of forcing cabin crew to strip him in a cramped airline toilet (remember this guy weighed 200 kilograms) and wipe his bum while he “moaned with pleasure”.

The incident occurred on an EVA Air long-haul flight from LA to Taiwan’s Taoyuan Airport and was covered extensively on world media.

Infamous 'large' passenger dies in Koh Samui | News by The Thaiger

A flight attendant, who on the same flight, described how the passenger boarded the plane in a wheelchair and then insisted on having three adjoining seats in economy class due to his size. He then demanded to use the plane’s business class lavatory, as he couldn’t fit into the economy toilets.

But (put down your food if eating) while in the toilet, he demanded cabin crew strip him down so he could relieve himself, saying he had an arm injury that prevented him from doing it himself.

“I told him we couldn’t help him, but he started yelling. He told me to go in there immediately and threatened to relieve himself on the floor. As the passenger’s genitals were now exposed, one of my colleagues brought a blanket, which I used to cover his modesty.”

“But he very angrily slapped my hand away, saying he didn’t want it and only wanted me to remove his underwear so he could use the toilet.”

Infamous 'large' passenger dies in Koh Samui | News by The Thaiger

The flight attendant who ‘assisted’ the man should be awarded lots of medals and a lifetime supply of latex gloves

The passenger then asked crew to wipe his bum for him leading him to groan as the chief attendant fulfilled his request while wearing three pairs of latex gloves.

“He said: ‘Oh, mmm, deeper, deeper,’ and then accused my chief attendant of not properly cleaning his backside, requesting that she do it again,” recalled the attendant, who was holding onto the passenger to keep him steady.

She said the attendant repeated the action three times before the man said, “You can pull my pants back up now.”

The two female flight attendants involved, who both said they were traumatised by the incident in January, are both on extended paid leave.

The Sun.co.uk, reporting this story, says that “Party island Ko Samui – the second largest island in Thailand – is known for its prostitution and seedy nightlife.”

Despite the source, the incident has been widely reported by ‘respectable media’ on January 20 this year, and the large man has indeed passed away on Koh Samui.

SOURCE: The Sun

Infamous 'large' passenger dies in Koh Samui | News by The Thaiger

‘The Sun’ confuses Koh Samui with Walking Street

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Thailand

Average hotel prices drop in Thailand in 2018

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Average hotel prices drop in Thailand in 2018 | The Thaiger

The latest Hotel Price Index (HPI) released by Hotels.com reveals no sign of a slowdown for the global travel industry. Prices are up for overnight accommodation by 3% globally in 2018 across every regional index, except for the Pacific region, including Thailand.

Hotel.com has 85 websites in 34 languages, and lists over 325,000 hotels in approximately 19,000 locations. Its inventory includes hotels and B&Bs, and some condos and other types of commercial lodging.

Travellers to and around Thailand paid an average price of 1,720 baht a night for their domestic accommodation last year, a 7% drop compared to 2017, and paid the same average price of 4,437 baht a night for international accommodation in both 2018 and 2017.

The growth in travel comes despite global uncertainties including Brexit, California wildfires, South African drought and Japanese earthquakes. Travellers also showed resilience and renewed confidence in destinations touched by unrest: Paris, Egypt, Turkey; regions experiencing currency fluctuation: South America; and areas affected by natural disaster: North America.

Despite the overall growth in global accommodation prices, average prices paid for domestic accommodation in Thailand have decreased, with average prices for international beds remaining stable.

SOURCE: The Nation | Hotel.com

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