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PATA: Phuket should brace for a “new breed of tourist’

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PATA: Phuket should brace for a “new breed of tourist’ | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: The tourism industry in Phuket should take preemptive steps to prepare itself for a major shift in tourism dynamics, a high-powered meeting of industry players was told recently.

A shift in global economics has prompted a trend for visitors to Phuket to be more likely to come from within the Asia-Pacific region, specifically India and China, said Bert van Walbeek, chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Thailand Chapter.

Known affectionately as ‘Bowtie Bert’, Mr van Walbeek volleyed the caution at a SKAL-PATA meeting held at the Mövenpick Resort & Spa in Karon. The event, endorsed by the Ministry of Tourism & Sports, was the first ever held jointly by the two influential tourism organizations.

Phuket MP Anchalee Thepabutra and her husband, Korean Honorary Consul Tosaporn Thephabutra, along with Phuket Tourism Association Vice President Bhuritt Maswongsa and Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Phuket office Director Bangornrat Shinaprayoon were all present to hear his address in person.

Rounding out the collection of top-end tourism players at the event were representatives from the Thai Hotel Association; honorary consuls; hotel general managers; tour operators; local business leaders and Phuket-based media.

PATA pulled no punches in making clear the importance it attributed to the event. Headlining the speakers’ list were PATA CEO Bill Calderwood and PATA Global Board Member Luzi Matzig, who is also CEO of Asian Trails.

Joining them were PATA Thailand IT Chairman Blair Speers, who is CEO of the Phuket-based HotelTravel.com, and PATA Director of Chapter Development Ben Montgomery.

Heading the SKAL International entourage was the organization’s Phuket and South Thailand President Blandine Cressard.

Mr van Welbeek, armed with a slew of statistics garnered from PATA data research, treated the audience to a breakdown of the strengths and weaknesses of Phuket’s apparent tourism strategy.

He highlighted the new breed of Internet savvy tourist in the years to come and pointed out the advantages of having a joint early warning system using the Internet to make sure that the right information is disseminated should there be another crisis, such as the SARS epidemic.

Mr van Welbeek also demonstrated the depth of research data available through PATA, from which positive, preemptive strategies could be devised, by pointing out that, for example, in 1979 Phuket only had 1,945 rooms and in 1997 the occupancy rate for the entire year averaged 54%.

This first Phuket meeting between Skål and PATA took place with a view to launching a new era of cooperation in order to “promote, protect and enhance Phuket’s reputation” and hopefully form a PATA Phuket Chapter.

Both non-profit associations have a long history and there are some people who are already members of both. Skål was founded in 1934 and now has some 20,000 travel and tourism professionals who hold regular informal and formal networking meetings. They have been in Phuket for 15 years, have around a 100 members here and are active in supporting local community projects.

PATA has been around since 1951 and is a leading authority on travel and tourism in the Asia-Pacific region with strong links to private enterprise. There are 39 active PATA chapters worldwide including one in Bangkok.

“Skål International Phuket & Southern Thailand’s warm welcome and the unique opportunity to meet and greet our Skål and PATA colleagues ‘down-south’ and share information about each other’s valuable past, present and future contributions to the Thai tourism industry, shows that both in the public and private tourism sectors the ‘one-for-all, all-for-one’ mentality will prevail,” said Mr van Walbeek.

PATA Regional Director (Asia) Reid Ridgway agreed that a Phuket chapter would be beneficial to all. However he warned that it would require a lot of work and commitment in order to make it a reality. “Planting a seed is easy, it’s nurturing that seed to bear fruit of its own that involves commitment. Phuket tourism can gain deep benefits from PATA’s support, but it will require engagement from our members,” he said.

The offer has been made, it now remains to be seen if Phuket is ready to join.

Presentations from the evening will soon be available on www.pata-thailand.org

— Marc Mulloy

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Tourism

Thai-Chinese Chamber of Commerce to propose Guangzhou-Phuket tourism route

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thai-Chinese Chamber of Commerce to propose Guangzhou-Phuket tourism route | The Thaiger
PHOTO: 77 kaoded

A tourism route from Guangzhou, China to Phuket could help the island province recover from the recession brought on by the pandemic and lack of foreign travel, according to the Thai-Chinese Chamber of Commerce. The president of the organisation, Narongsak Puttapornmongkol, says they plan to submit a letter proposing the route under a travel bubble scheme to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

The Thai-Chinese Chamber of Commerce is proposing a travel bubble with around 20 cities in China with no recent coronavirus infections and considered to be at a low risk of spreading the virus. Travellers from Guangzhou recently entered Thailand on the new Special Tourist Visa. It was the second flight of international tourists since travel restrictions were imposed in late-March.

“We believe that the Travel Bubble and the quarantine reduction will resolve the tourism business, which is a huge economic opportunity to recover.”

Once a vaccine is widely available, Narongsak suggests that those who wish to Thailand could also present their vaccination certificate or examination reports from the place of origin. He adds that the mandatory state quarantine period is likely to be reduced.

SOURCE: Pattaya News

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Phuket officials concerned about virus risk from undocumented migrant workers

Maya Taylor

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Phuket officials concerned about virus risk from undocumented migrant workers | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Wikimedia

The discovery that 3 Thai nationals infected with Covid-19 returned from Myanmar and bypassed health checks and quarantine, has officials in Phuket on high alert. Over the weekend, it was discovered that a 29 year old Thai woman had illegally crossed from Myanmar and subsequently tested positive for Covid-19 after admitting herself to a Chiang Mai hospital. 2 other women who worked with her have also tested positive for the virus.

Phuket’s deputy governor, Pichet Panapong, says news of the 3 infected Thai women who managed to enter Thailand without undergoing any health checks or mandatory quarantine, has officials on the southern island worried. He adds that local authorities are monitoring Burmese workers, calling on them to follow disease control measures if returning to Phuket from Myanmar. (It would appear he missed the bit about the 3 infected women being Thai, not Burmese)

In a report in the Bangkok Post, Pichet says officials are considering setting up a quarantine facility for any migrant workers already in Phuket illegally, adding that of the 59,900 registered migrant workers on the island, 80% are Burmese. The Thailand/Myanmar border is longer than 2,000 kilometres with hundreds of official and “natural” border crossings.

“People can also act as eyes and ears for the authorities. If they find something suspicious in their communities, they should alert immigration police or local police.”

Phuket has 21 alternative quarantine properties, offering over 2,500 rooms in total, but arrival numbers are low. It’s understood that only 11 people have applied to enter Phuket in the period December 4 – 12, and so far, only a single application has been received for January. There are currently 726 people in local quarantine, 20 in alternative local quarantine, and 4 people carrying out yacht quarantine. Since Phuket agreed to receive foreign-registered yachts, 6 vessels have entered its waters, with all passengers and crew carrying out quarantine on board, 6 kilometres from shore.

Pichet says that, at a meeting of the communicable disease control committee, the Thai Yachting Business Association submitted a proposal to manage cruise ships, and officials have also received a request to extend the opening hours of shopping malls over the New Year holiday.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Re-opening Thailand to tourism will be vaccine dependent

Bill Barnett

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Re-opening Thailand to tourism will be vaccine dependent | The Thaiger

Bill Barnett from c9hotelworks.com continues to follow the difficult journey of the Thai hospitality industry. Traditionally, now would be the start of the country’s highly profitable high season for the tourism industry. But not this year. Thai hotels find themselves in the middle of an existential crisis – either still closed, only partly open, or one of the few converted to limited ASQ traffic. The situation is dire, when you consider that between 15-20% of Thailand’s GDP is linked to tourism.

In a speech this week Thailand’s Prime Minster Prayut Chan-o-cha spoke clearly that only when a vaccine is approved, produced, and implemented, would the country open to substantial tourism. Given the current timelines and forecasts, this may not be likely until mid-2021 at the earliest, though subject to advancement if the process could be accelerated, which is unlikely.

For tourism and hotel stakeholders, the writing is on the wall that 2021, for the most part, will see a continued reliance on domestic travellers, and only in 2022 will there be a large-scale return in numbers of overseas visitors.

Given the winter spike in Asia, Europe, and North America of Covid-19, Thailand is not alone in relying on the vaccine to return tourism but the process will not be instant and the re-openings of borders will most certainly be staged.

HERE’s a list of 113 Alternative State Quarantine hotels.

The business reality for Phuket and across Thailand is to plan for the worst in the coming six months and only expect 2022 to see a notable uptick.

Currently, the hotel sector continues to advocate to the Thai government and Central Bank for debt and financing relief measures and assistance in a social security supplement to retain staff.

While it’s negative news, it at least allows for hotels to understand the challenges ahead, plan and adjust their operating models going forward. ‘Survive the downturn’ is the new mantra.

No vaccine, no entry. Read more HERE.

No vaccine, no flight. Read more HERE.

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