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Phuket hotel registration remains a challenge

Bill Barnett

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Phuket is attracting an ever-increasing number of international visitors to our golden beaches and turquoise seas.

But many of the millions of travellers who visit Phuket each year could be staying in unlicensed – and effectively illegal – hotels. According to a new report by hospitality consulting group C9 Hotelworks, less than a quarter of hotels in Phuket (429 out of 1,724) are currently licensed.

This issue was brought into sharp focus late last year when former Phuket’s Governor Chokchai Dejamornthan, announced plans for a crackdown on unlicensed hotels in the island province. At the time, Governor Chokchai urged the travelling public not to stay in unregistered hotels.

But despite a deadline of 31st January 2017 being set for offending hotels to become legally registered, C9 Hotelworks has underscored that, six months later, the situation remains challenged.

Data from Phuket’s Provincial Administration Office shows that of the 1,295 unlicensed hotels identified in Phuket, only six have had their licenses approved. A further 1,001 are pending approval, while 288 have not yet applied.

A disconnect in regulation could be hindering the licensing process.

Phuket’s provincial government has undertaken an admirable large-scale initiative to tackle the proliferation of unlicensed hotels.

Currently the main challenges for the process are the strict regulations associated with the Thailand-wide Building Control and Hotel Act’s. As a result of these mandates, the province is considering reviewing the requirements to support the conversation process.

Local authorities are under pressure to tackle this issue, as strong demand from emerging economies continues to drive a sharp increase in tourism arrivals to Phuket. For example, Russian passenger traffic at Phuket International Airport jumped 17% in the first five months of 2017, while arrivals from Mainland China rose 8%. With 17 Chinese airlines now flying into Phuket, Mainland China accounts for two-thirds of Asian traffic at the island’s airport.

Hotel development in Phuket also continues to gather pace; according to C9 Hotelworks’ pipeline analysis, there are now 33 hotels being developed across the island, which will add 5,738 more rooms to Phuket’s inventory. These include major global brands such as Sheraton, JW Marriott, Best Western, InterContinental, Park Hyatt, Kempinski, Ramada and Rosewood.

With so many new hotels due enter the market in the coming months and years, Phuket’s authorities are mandated to ensure regulatory processes are stringent and effective, whilst the reality is not being overly complex or bureaucratic. At the same time private sector investment into the hotel industry is racing ahead of the public sector.

Without the ability to apply hotel tax to unlicensed properties, the island is being denied much needed revenue that could be reinvested into infrastructure. There remains an imperative to ensure that the 1,295 unlicensed hotels currently operating in Phuket are dealt with swiftly and effectively, to ensure the issue does not do damage to the island’s international reputation.

Many of Southeast Asia’s surging mass tourism resort markets face a similar issue to Phuket. One case in point is Bali where the official registered number of hotels stands at 317, with 33,599 rooms according to the Indonesian government’s Badan Pusat Statistik. In reality inventory stands well above that of Phuket.

Government regulating bodies have to understand the close relationship between hotel licensing and tax issues in order to not be left out in the cold.

- Bill Barnett

Bill Barnett has over 30 years of experience in the Asian hospitality and property markets. He is considered to be a leading authority on real estate trends across Asia, and has sat at almost every seat around the hospitality and real estate table. Bill promotes industry insight through regular conference speaking engagements and is continually gathering market intelligence. Over the past few years he has released four books on Asian property topics.

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China has the most atheists. Indonesia and Philippines the most believers.

Kritsada Mueanhawong

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China is the least believing country in the world but belief in a God gets 100 per cent mention in countries like Indonesia, Bangladesh and Philippines, according to the survey by Gallup International.

According to the survey exploring religious tendencies of 66,000 people in 68 countries across the world, 62 per cent of people in the world define themselves as religious, 74% of people globally believe we have a ‘soul’ and 71% believe in a God. Another 56% believe in heaven, 54% in life after death and 49% in hell.

China has the highest percentage of atheists in the world with 67% not believing in any religion. Every seven out ten people are atheists, more than double than any other country. 23% consider themselves as non-religious. Less than 10% identify themselves as religious in China.

China’s atheist percentage is followed by Japan, a long way behind in second place at 29%, Slovenia (28%) and Chech Republic (25%). Despite rapid industrialisation and urbanisation religion has stayed relevant in the South Korean region with only 23% identifying as atheist.

European countries like Belgium (21 %), France (21%) , Sweden (18%) and Iceland (17%) also have a large percentage of believing population.

Bangladesh, Indonesia and Philippines are the most believing countries with entire population claiming to believe in God, soul, hell and heaven. Thailand and Pakistan have 99% believing population, followed by India, Vietnam and Mongolia.

The survey shows that the levels of religiosity diminish as income and education levels increase. While 66% of people with low income affirm to be religious, this percentage drops to 50% among people with higher incomes. The same trend is verified in relation to education levels: 83% of people with lower education level are religious against 49% of higher level.

According to the survey there is a connection between religiosity, beliefs and socio-demographic characteristics like age, income and education level. As education and income levels grow higher, religiosity levels tend to go down. Also, the expression of different beliefs is higher among young people.

The level of education has a considerable influence on the perception of religion by the society. Women and young children show higher percentage for spiritual forces.

SOURCE: Data Leads

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Stunning Malaysian election result ousts Barisan Nasional

Kritsada Mueanhawong

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FILE PHOTO

Malaysia’s Pakatan Harapan (PH) opposition coalition has crossed the minimum threshold of 112 seats needed to form government in Malaysia. The Election Commission continue to count a few remaining votes this morning but have confirmed the win of the Pakatan Harapan party and coalition members.

The result brings to an end the rule of Barisan Nasional (BN) and it’s leader Najib Razak. Barisan Nasional, a nationalist right-wing government with strong links to it’s ethnic Malay constituency, has dominated Malaysian politics for decades.

In a press conference just before the official confirmation, opposition leader and former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad, now 92 years old, said his party had achieved a victory.

He said he hoped a swearing-in ceremony would be held on Thursday. Mr Mahathir will become the oldest elected leader in the world.

The final official results indicate PH had won 115 seats, with BN on 79 (these numbers will alter slightly as the counting finishes today).

The 92 year old pledged a government that would include a “young person”, referring to criticism during the campaign that he was too old to lead Malaysia again. Mahathir said he would honour his agreement to help secure a royal pardon for jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. The two became the odd couple of Asian politics after decades working together, then becoming bitter enemies. Anwar was Mahathir’s deputy PM at one stage but then fell out of favour.

But the two formed a curious coalition to bring down PM Najib Razak who they claimed was corrupt and had stained the country with the 1MDB financial scandal.

Mahathir said Anwar would have to win a by-election or be elected senator in order for him to take over as prime minister from Dr Mahathir, as per their agreement.

An upset was on the cards when unofficial results started trickling in about four hours after the ballot boxes were closed at 5.30 last night.

• 9pm – Bernama reported that caretaker Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai, the president of BN component party Malaysian Chinese Association, had lost his Bentong seat.
• Caretaker Health Minister S Subramaniam, of BN coalition party Malaysian Indian Congress, was the next major casualty, losing his Segamat seat in Johor.
• 9.30pm, there was respite for BN when word came in that incumbent PM Najib Razak had successfully defended his Pekan seat in Pahang.

By 9.45pm last night, another four deputy ministers fell. At about the same time, it emerged that Mahathir would make a return to parliament after winning his Langkawi seat.

The result throws into doubt Najib Razak’s position in his party.
While he had been praised for his fiscal policies, he was also unpopular for rolling out a goods and services tax in addition to being a target of unwanted international attention over allegations funds were misappropriated from a state fund he advised, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). He has denied consistently any wrongdoing.

Mahathir had accused his former protege Najib of corruption and abuse of power before quitting UMNO to form his own party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.

But Mahathir has vowed: “We are not seeking revenge. We want to restore the rule of law.”

92 year old PM-elect Mahathir Mohamad, with a shirt emblazoned with his name, in case he forgot it whilst campaigning for the historic election.

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CamGO adding more ‘autorickshaws’ to its Cambodian fleet

Kritsada Mueanhawong

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CamGO, the company behind the local ride-hailing app, have announced a partnership agreement with Indian motorcycle company TVS Motor that would provide TVS’s King model autorickshaws for use in the Kingdom.

In the agreement, TVS will supply the three-wheeled vehicles to CamGO using local firm Three Wheel Motor Service Provider as a front for their services.

Ouk Chipsourn, CEO of CamGO, says that his company has offered their service in Cambodia since 2016 and up to now their app has been downloaded by 5,000 users in the capital Phnom Penh.

While there are 42 TVS King autorickshaws available for service in Phnom Penh at the current time, Chipsourn said 42 others will be arriving early next month, expanding the fleet to 84.

“With the agreement today, we expect that there will be 300 TVS tuk-tuks available for operation before the end of this year,” he said, adding that the service will expand beyond Phnom Penh to other tourism destination like Siem Reap, Kampot, Preah Sihanouk provinces.

While no dollar figures were given on the deal, CamGO owns all of its tuk-tuks and offers its drivers the option to either work for a fixed salary or rent their vehicles for $4.50 a day.

Mobile taxi-hailing apps have been expanding quickly in Cambodia this year. Last December, Malaysian technology company Grab entered Cambodia’s ride-hailing market and later acquired US-headquartered giant Uber.

Additionally, there are also several locally operated companies.Va Chandore, director of Three Wheel Motor Service Provider, said yesterday that demand for ride-hailing services are increasing at a breakneck pace in Cambodia. Thus, the added supply of vehicles will help to reduce traffic congestion and bring jobs into the country.

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