“…shrinking Chinese demand due to the economic slowdown and depreciation for the yuan versus the baht”
The time has come to open the discussion about the troubling drop in one of Thailand’s leading resort destinations, Koh Samui.
Looking into the island’s performance numbers, according to data from international hospitality benchmarking group STR, at the end of August room night demand was down year-to-date by 4.4%.
Viewing a broader market metric C9 Hotelworks research has shown through September that hotel occupancy for the first nine months of the year declined by over 7% compared to the same period in 2017.
One cannot simply account for the dismal numbers as an effect of the China ‘boat sinking’ crisis which was triggered in the middle of the year. Airlift is the elephant in the room of island tourism destinations. During the first six months of this year, domestic arrivals at Koh Samui Airport dropped by 19%, with each month reflecting a negative variance compared to the same month in 2017.
Many industry watchers have pointed to the termination of Thai Airways International flights between Bangkok and Koh Samui in September as a trigger. The reality of the airlift in fact is TG retired an aging 737-400 jet that was used to service the route. It lacks an appropriate replacement given the island’s short runway and negotiated a codeshare agreement with Bangkok Airways to ensure travelers transit seamlessly.
One telling indicator of the market malaise is Surat Thani Airport on the mainland. Over the past few years a rising number of Chinese travelers had used the gateway and were ferried on to Koh Samui. Diving into the latest available data, international arrivals at Surat Thani for the period of January through September dropped 36%, while domestic arrivals only slightly moved downward by 1%.
Armed with the numbers I started a dialogue with island hoteliers to better understand the situation. For the most part, there were similar stories about shrinking Chinese demand due to the economic slowdown and depreciation for the yuan versus the baht.
Arguably the legacy European markets were slower based on the impact of a World Cup year. Lastly is the rise of Vietnam’s beach destination’s including Da Nang, Nha Trang and Phu Quoc.
Ultimately there is little doubt though that the sheer cost of airfares to Koh Samui remain a vital barrier to entry. Phuket continues to see more low-cost airline carriers which has contributed to growth in price sensitive markets. Samui’s environmental restrictions on the number of daily flights and lack of airline carrier diversity in the LCC space has created a glass ceiling.
For hotels, frankly there is no easy answer. The island has somewhat avoided the massive development crush of other resort locations in Thailand and Southeast Asia, but the nature of the island’s economic dependence on tourism has caged the golden goose. Damned if they do or damned if they don’t, the path to tourism maturity comes with a price tag with either staying small or going big. The hotel and tourism sector will likely remain stressed going forward, though certain niches such as luxury properties and wellness offerings tend to buck the trend.
To sum up the future, something has to happen with the airport issue to balance mounting infrastructure drains. The continued influx of Full Moon travellers transiting to nearby Koh Phangan and early stage development of Koh Tao are just another part of the equation.
In short, Koh Samui either needs to find a way to grow the existing airport or else find a new location and long-term solution to the airport conundrum.
The ‘Fun Police’ crackdown on posting ‘lewd’ Songkran pics and video
The Thai police have become Thailand’s fun police today as they warn Songkran revellers against posting photos of scantily clad people, or ‘invitations’ to consume alcohol’… pretty much everything you see during the madness of Songkran festivities in the main tourist hot spots.
“No photos, video clips of live broadcasts of nudity, lewd acts or inviting consumption of alcohol should be published on Thai social media during Songkran.”
Such actions are illegal and punishable with a fine and/or a jail term, the police said yesterday.
Pol Colonel Siriwat Deepor, the deliverer of the fun-suppression warning and deputy commander of the Technology Crime Suppression Division, says that previous Songkran festivals often saw inappropriate photos of young women and ladyboys posted on Thai social media (no mention of inappropriate photos of men).
He urged revellers to mark the Thai traditional New Year with polite cultural activities and refrain from any risky behaviour that could lead to violations of the Computer Act and related laws.
Siriwat explained that if pictures or video clips of Songkran revellers wearing “sexually-provocative clothing” were posted online, those posting or sharing them could be charged with violating the Computer Act and subjected to a maximum five-year jail term and/or a maximum 100,000 baht fine.
Those captured by photographs or video clips could also be charged with performing a shameful act in public by indecently exposing themselves or committing other indecent acts under the Criminal Code’s Section 388, which carries a maximum fine of 500 baht.
But he went on… Social media posts inviting others to drink alcohol was also subject to a maximum one-year jail term and a maximum 500,000 baht fine.
Other indecent posts or live streaming deemed against society’s good morality and the law could also face legal action, Siriwat added.
Police said officers will be monitoring Thai social media closely during Songkran in order to speedily investigate potential violations and prevent other viewers, especially youngsters, from copying indecent behaviour.
SOURCE: The Nation
Songkran around Thailand – where can you get wet?
Songkran Festival is an event where an all-out water battle and ancient traditions somehow blend in annual celebration.
It’s unlike anything else in the world. And it’s wet. Venturing out onto Thailand’s streets on April 13 is an open invitation to have a bucket of water thrown at you or a loaded water super-soaker aimed in your direction. You WILL get wet.
For tourists, the event offers a huge water party breaking out in the streets of Thailand’s towns and villages. For locals, it is a time when they can spend moments with their families and visit temples to make merit – and then get involved in the water fights as well.
Songkran is celebrated around Thailand but some of the larger, (slightly organised) water fights and fun are held in the major tourist magnets around the country, notably Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, Pattaya and the popular tourist islands. Chiang Mai gets a special notoriety for keeping the water fight going for up to three or four days.
This Songkran 2019 the Tourism Authority of Thailand is organising celebrations in three emerging tourist destinations – Tak, Mukdahan and Ranong – and is supporting activities in eight other provinces (Bangkok, Samut Prakan, Sukhothai, Chiang Mai, Lampang, Ayutthaya, Phuket and Songkhla).
Songkran in Tak, Mukdahan and Ranong
Amazing Songkran 2019 @ Tak
Scheduled from April 12-14 at Wat Thai Wattanaram and Naresuan Maharaj Stadium in Mae Sot district, the event celebrates the time-honoured traditions of the Thai Yai ethnic group and the Thai people, with traditional activities including purifying a Buddha image, sand pagoda building and a colourful parade. Other activities are cultural and music performances, a water tunnel display, a folk village, a food fair and local art and craft workshops.
Muk-Savan Fun & Fin Festival 2019, Mukdahan
Taking place from April 12-16 at Hat Manopirom, Wan Yai district, the event is focused on the theme of ‘Cool Isan’ with a water tunnel and displays, an umbrella tunnel, and a five-region sand pagoda zone as well as a ‘Sand Art Contest.’ The opening ceremony and stage performance is scheduled on April 13.
Mineral Water and Songkran Festival 2019, Ranong
Taking place from April 13-15 at the multi-purpose ground in front of the Mueang Ranong Municipal Office, the event places emphasis on Ranong’s unique local culture with a colourful twist. Highlights include a traditional Songkran parade, an exhibition on the 12 Zodiac signs, and a food fair with 20 booths of rare indigenous food items. There’s an LED-decorated water tunnel display to welcome visitors to various other activities unique to the area including cooking shows, traditional dances, and music performances.
Songkran in Bangkok, Samut Prakan, Sukhothai, Chiang Mai, Lampang, Ayutthaya, Phuket and Songkhla
Songkran in Bangkok
- Songkran Wisutkasat (April 13-15) on Wisutkasat Road, Under the Rama VIII Bridge. This year marks the 77th anniversary of Songkran Wisutkasat, best known for being the origin of the Miss Songkran Beauty contest in Thailand, with several other cultural activities, including merit making, purifying Buddha image, paying respect to the elders, and a colourful parade. One special activity for this year is free entry to the Bank of Thailand Museum (Bangkhunprom Palace).
- Songkran Siam Square (April 13-15). This year’s event promotes “Pha Khao Ma” (Thai men’s multi-purpose loincloth) and a ‘safe Songkran’ theme, with cultural activities including purifying Buddha images from four ASEAN countries, cultural and music performances, folk market and water-based fun. Tourists and locals are encouraged to celebrate the festival without chalk powder (din sor pong), alcoholic drinks or wearing revealing clothes.
Songkran Phra Pradaeng 2019 (April 19-21) at the Phra Pradaeng City Hall. Phra Pradaeng is where the local people observe Mon ceremonies in a traditional way, and their New Year traditions are very different to those found in the rest of Thailand. For a start, the celebrations here take place a little later, and feature a range of cultural activities including a spectacular floral procession, a parade of the local Mon people in their colourful traditional outfits, a Miss Songkran parade and Mister and Miss Songkran Beauty Contest. Visitors will also have the chance to join merit-making activities in the local temples, pay respect to community elders and enjoy folk plays and cultural performances.
Sukhothai Songkran 2019
- Thai Puan’s Elephant Ordination Tradition, Ban Hat Siew (April 7) at Wat Hat Siew in Si Satchanalai district. Held annually for over 175 years, this is an ancient ordination ceremony that all local men must become monks for at least seven days and every year, the ordinations take place on this date. The men prepared in the traditional way are taken to the temples on elephants while wearing local headgear. This ritual is based upon the tale of “Phra Vessandara Chadok” one of the Lord Buddha’s former incarnations. Most of the men leave the temples on Songkran day on April 15 to enjoy New Year with their families.
- Song Nam – Oi Tan Ceremony, Songkran Si Satchanalai (April 8-12) at the Monument of Phra Mahathammaracha I (Lithai) in Si Satchanalai district. Oi Tan, is a phrase that means to make a donation and relates to the good morals of the people of Sukhothai. The highlight is a procession to pay respects to Phra Maha Thammaracha I, who was king of Sukhothai from 1347 to 1368. Other highlights include cultural parades from the 10 local communities, Lady Oi Tan beauty competition, a food fair and music performance.
- Songkran and Sawankhalok Food Festival (April 11-15) at the Public Health Park in Sawankhalok district. Here visitors can Song Nam Phraor purifying the three highly-revered Buddha images from the three most important temples of the district, including Wat Sawang Arom Worawihan, Wat Sankaram, and Wat Klong Krajong. Other highlights are a local food fair and a chance to ‘check-in’ at the newly-created ‘Pop Culture’ street art created by famous ASEAN artists.
- Retro Songkran Splendours, Sukhothai (April 12-14) at Sukhothai Historical Park. Celebrating the ancient city’s status as the cradle of Thai civilization, visitors can embrace the old-style features of the event with traditional costumes and age-old games, parades and merit making. One of the most popular events is the sand pagoda building contest in which families compete to make stunning designs.
- Flowery Shirt Songkran on Khao Tok Road, Sukhothai (April 12-15) at the Sukhothai city and Sukhothai public park. Tourists and locals are invited to wear colourful Hawaiian-style shirts, which have become a firm Songkran tradition. Highlights include a float procession and the chance to pay respects to the Buddha images, water fun, retro Thai circle dance activities and beauty contests.
- Hae Nam Kuen Hong Ceremony and Chao Muen Dong Bathing Rite (April 17-19) at the Monument of Chao Muen Dong, Ban Toek sub-district in Si Satchanalai district. Activities include a sacred ceremony to pay respect to the Buddha image of Chao Muen Dong at Ban Toek, folk plays and a procession of elephants as well as cultural parades from 14 local communities. Water-based activities can be enjoyed at Ban Toek-Ban Na Ton Chan tourism communities.
Paweni Pi Mai Muang, Chiang Mai (April 12-16).
- Salung Luang Songkran Festival, Lampang (April 9 – 13) at Khelang Nakorn Park on Tha Kraw Noi Road. Enjoy a huge parade called the Salung Luang procession as well as the Miss and Mister Songkran Contests, floral horse-drawn carriages competitions, cultural shows and a many local performances.
Ayutthaya Songkran Festival 2019
- Songkran at the Ancient Capital (April 13-15) along the Sri Sanphet Road in front of the TAT Ayutthaya Office. Celebrate Songkran in the most unusual exotic way – water splashing with the elephants in the environs of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ayutthaya Historical Park and the chance to enjoy the traditional Thai circle dances with the locals.
- Mon Songkran (April 14) at Wat Thong Bo, Bang Pa-In district. The Mon people have their own traditions when it comes to celebrating Songkran and many of these can be seen in the Bang Pa-in district of Ayutthaya where a range of activities take place around the temple of Wat Thong Bo. These include merit making, bathing of the local Buddha images and cultural parade.
Phuket Songkran Festival 2019
- The Water Festival on the Beach (April 11-13) at Patong Beach.
- Songkran No Alcohol (April 13) at Limelight Avenue Mall.
- Water Festival 2019 (April 14-15) at Dibuk Road.
Hat Yai Midnight Songkran 2019 (April 12-15) on the streets of Nipat Uthit 3, Sanehanusorn and Thammanoon Vithi. Cultural activities include a Buddha image parade, purifying Buddha image and local folk plays. Others are beauty contests, Muay Talay sea boxing matches, music concerts and the Songkran Carnival parade.
Songkran is a time when family comes first, respect is paid to seniors and people visit the temples to take part in age-old ceremonies. Visitors will get more out of Songkran if they take the time to understand its origins and its traditions. Above all, have an enjoyable and safe time for Thailand’s New Year celebrations.
“Nong Gee” turns heads at Koh Samui military conscription
Thai media’s fascination with ‘ladyboys’ continues with Daily News reporting about the military conscription event in Koh Samui and, as usual, getting diverted by the one or two “kathoey” who role up, as required by law, to draw lots to see if they will get conscripted into the national Army.
“Thai men screamed their appreciation as a very attractive lady boy in a beautiful dress presented himself at a military conscription event on Koh Samui,” according to Daily News.
Daily News waxed lyrical describing her as the “Angel of the Island”.
The person grabbing all the attention was 21 year old Ratchasak Rortpayung, aka. “Nong Gee” who is a student at Rangsit University north of Bangkok.
Nong Gee wore a simple printed frock in neutral tones with delicate folds of matching fabric complete with a complementary handbag and a smattering of light bling.
She was deemed to be exempt from military service. She joined many others from 7 sub-districts and 39 villages on Koh Samui at the annual event, one of many held throughout Thailand at this time of year.
Daily News noted that the quota for jobs in the air force and navy were already filled by volunteers but there was a lottery for conscripts to join the Army.
SOURCE: Daily News
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