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Phuket

Kota Bahru visa run “still safe’

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Kota Bahru visa run “still safe’ | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Despite continuing violence in the south of Thailand, the visa officer at the Thai Consulate in Kota Bahru, Malaysia, insists that the security situation along the border is still calm and that many foreigners continue to arrive each day to renew visas. Kota Bahru is the Thai consulate closest to Phuket, and one of a few in the region that has consistently issued six-month double-entry non-immigrant B visas, required by people who wish to work in Thaland. Tour companies offer “visa trips” that involve being away from Thailand for just a few hours. The three southern Thai provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala have undergone sporadic violence this week, mostly in attacks on local authorities. An estimated 20 attackers poured gunfire into a police station in Betong, Yala, last night. No one was reported hurt in the 15-minute battle. Pavinee Yuwaphan, Visa Officer at the Thai Consulate in Kota Bahru, told the Gazette today that security in Narathiwat and on the border was very tight now and tourists could feel safe. “We still have a lot of people coming to see us every day,” she said. “I am not worried. We have soldiers on guard around the border area and in each of the problem provinces. Security checks at the Thai border are very strict.” However, she added that anyone still concerned about security “can go to renew visas [at the Thai consulate] in Penang which is also issuing six-month Non-immigrant visas,” K. Pavinee added. In Penang, however, an official at the Thai consulate said that six-month non-immigrant visas were not automatic. “It depends on the documents the applicant provides,” the official said, adding, on the bright side, that one-year Non-immigrant B visas were available provided the paperwork is in order A Penang-based Gazette source with connections in the consulate said that, to his knowledge, one-year multiple-entry B visas could be obbtained by anyone holding a current Thai work permit. Pol Capt Krissarat Nuesen of the Phuket Immigration Office said, “You can go to any country you wish [in order to get a non-immigrant visa] but the validity of the visa depends on the discretionary authority of each consulate, which in turn depends on how much authority the consulate is given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.” Meanwhile, the tourism industry in Phuket is naturally worried about the effect the violence in the South will have on business. Phuket Tourist Association President Pattanapong Aikwanich, told the Gazette that he felt the role of the press was “most important” when it came to covering this sensitive topic. “I think we should act strongly to provide the information to the public about what is happening in the three provinces [in the South]. “The Thai government and the Tourism Authority of Thailand, as reliable sources, should clarify the actual situation [to make sure people understand] that [the violence] is not related to international terrorists – this is well known and can be proven,” he said. “The Thai government should work with the foreign media, such as CNN, to let them know the real situation. The government should take [the press] to the area and let them to see what is really happening.” He added, “Early next month, there will be a ministerial conference of seven countries in this region focusing mainly on economic and tourism topics. The current situation means that we will also have to discuss security.” Lt Cdr Boonchart Prompoon, Director of the Airports Authority of Thailand, Phuket, said today that there are no flights to Phuket from Narathiwat, Yala or Pattani, so there has been no effect on the number of arrivals. “Anyway,” he added, “we continue to be very strict about the security of every flight. We also check runways, and we work closely with local authorities to exchange information.” A source at South Siam Travel Services, who asked not to be named, confirmed that in-bound reservations are holding up and that there have not been any cancelations nor, indeed, any worried queries. “The tour groups are coming here without asking about the circumstance in the three southern provinces,” the source said.

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News

30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands

Greeley Pulitzer

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30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands | The Thaiger

Tourists were treated to the sight of a school of dolphins in the Similan Islands off the Phang Nga coast on Sunday.

Tour organisers said that around 30 dolphins swam close to the boat six or seven miles offshore, creating excitement for passengers. It was the first time dolphins had been seen in the vicinity since October 15.

The Similan Islands National Park director said they were bottlenose dolphins and were among several species now returning to the area following a five-year closure of the park for environmental rehabilitation. Food is again plentiful there for them, he said.

Tourists are forbidden to feed wildlife lest the free handouts alter the animals’ natural behaviour, and the park’s waters are also very sensitive to contamination from human disease and marine debris, according to the director.

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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Patong

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms

The Thaiger

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Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | The Thaiger

by Sophie Deviller

Hotels on Thailand’s most popular holiday island are being forced to slash prices, with rooms left vacant and beaches sparse as Thailand’s tourism chiefs struggle with a plunge in Chinese visitors caused by the US trade war and a stronger baht. Phuket was the most visited destination in the country last year, after Bangkok, and a good gauge of the state of its crucial travel industry.

Tourism accounts for 18% of Thailand’s gross domestic product and Chinese holidaymakers make up more than a quarter of total arrivals. But while 2.2 million people from the country visited in 2018, according to official figures, the numbers for January-September were down almost 20% year on year.

Claude de Crissey, the French Honorary Consul in Phuket and owner of about 40 rooms in the Patong Beach area, says Chinese tourists are usually present even during the current low season.

“That was not the case this year,” he said, adding he had to lower his prices by as much as 50%.

The problem is not only in Phuket, with hotels also struggling to fill rooms in the seaside resort of Pattaya on the mainland and on Koh Samui.

Trade tensions with the US have already made some Chinese reluctant to take holidays owing to uncertainty back home, while the Thai baht has risen about 10% against the yuan this year.

A boating disaster off Phuket’s coast that killed 47 Chinese holidaymakers in July 2018 also scared some off.

“We are worried,” said an industry insider, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the topic in a country where tourism provides tens of thousands of jobs. Adding to the headache is the fact that more than 3,000 new hotel rooms are being constructed on the island, raising the question of who will fill them.

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

“In terms of business, it’s not good,” said Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, vice-president of the association of hotels in Thailand and director of Vijitt Resort.

“Because … we have more hotels, more rooms to sell, we have more restaurants, more coffee shops.”

Still, tourism authority chairman Yuthasak Supasorn said he remained “optimistic.”

“We should reach our goal of 39.8 million foreign visitors.”

However, that is only up from 38.2 million in 2018, much less than the jump seen from the previous year’s total of 35.6 million.

Counting on India

Now hoteliers and tour package operators are targeting visitors from elsewhere, particularly India, which experts see as a huge untapped market.

A rapid expansion of the middle class in India, increased direct flights and visa-free travel have prompted Thailand to revise forecasts upwards.

It now expects two million Indian tourists this year, after an increase of nearly 25% on-year in the first seven months. But for now, the lower arrivals is evident on the streets of Phuket.

“I’ve never seen anything as bad as what it is at the moment,” said Paul Scott from Australia, who said he has been coming to Thailand for 15 years.

He mainly blamed the stronger baht for the drop-off but also the fact that Thailand wasn’t the untouched vacation paradise it once was. “Now it’s not so new … and it’s not cheap,” he said.

SOURCE: AFP

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

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Events

The 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle fun run attracts more than 4,000 runners

The Thaiger

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The 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle fun run attracts more than 4,000 runners | The Thaiger

4,000 runners from Thailand and overseas took part in the 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle Fun Run and Half Marathon 2019 yesterday, starting from the Phuket Gateway.

The event is expected to raise 700,000 baht for the charity, now in its 15th year. The money raised goes towards to The Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation, which is committed to protecting the marine and coastal environment, and ecosystems, for the wellbeing of sea turtles that nest in the Mai Khao beach and the surrounding areas.

The annual race also provides funds for thePhuket Marine Biological Centre’s Injured Turtle Rehabilitation Program and The Third NavalArea Command’s Turtle Hatchery Program.

The race was in its 15th year and runners of all ages and abilities took part in the race. The morning’s racing was divided into five categories – the 21.1km half marathon, 10.5km mini- marathon, 5km fun run and 3k family run and VIP participants for all the races. The route of 21.1 kilometre race took runners northwest along the Haad Sai Kaew beach towards Thao Thepkasattri bridge, past the rural road No. 3006, run along the road – Pi Lai viewpoint area returned back along the T. Baan Tha Nun to the iconic Sarasin bridge before finished the half marathon in the Phuket Gateway.

For Mini Marathon 10.5 km – Over all category, Mr. Chinnawat Changlek clocked 39 minutes and 40 seconds to clinch victory in the male half marathon, winning prize money and a trophy with the signature of Phuket’s Governor. The winner in the female mini marathon was Surakarn Wanna with a time of 47 minutes and 47 seconds.

Winners also received a prize gift voucher as well as a medal. Congratulations to all participants.

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