Phuket chosen as Asian HQ

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PHUKET: Asia Travel Tips reports that Outrigger Hotels and Resorts Asia has officially established Phuket as its Regional Operating Headquarters (ROH).

The resort operator has also been approved by the Thai Government’s Board of Investment, under the Ministry of Industry.

“We are a resort company so have chosen a resort location,” said Outrigger’s Senior Vice President for Asia, Darren Edmonstone.

“Our expertise since our formation in Hawaii over 60 years ago pertains to warm climate resort holidays. Phuket, with its great aviation access, human resources and culture of hospitality is a perfect regional headquarters for us in Asia.

“With a headquarters in Phuket, Outrigger can easily access resort areas of potential business interest in India, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and around Asia,” he added.

Here in Phuket, the resort company manages the Outrigger Laguna Phuket Resort & Villas.

The Thai Government created the ROH program in 2001 to reinforce Thailand’s position as an important business hub.

Thais move to help tourism

The Thai government has decided to move forward with a tourism recovery plan, and to move quickly. Thailand’s Government has extended a range of measures to promote tourism, including a waiver of tourist visa fees until March 31, 2011.

They they have also approved a relief package for the tourism industry, including loans in the Thai Baht equivalent of US$153 million.

Hotels are exempted until 2011 from operation fees, while Thais travelling on local packages from tour operators, or who pay for their accommodation, will be able to deduct up to 15,000 baht from their annual income tax this year.

The TAT was granted an additional budget of 350 million baht (approx US$11.1 million) to boost promotion in the domestic market.

And the government-owned Airports of Thailand company has introduced discount schemes such as the reduction of landing fees by 15%.

The Government says it will also study tax deductions for MICE organizers.

Thailand praised for recovery

Earth Times
International tourism officials on Friday praised Thailand’s efforts to restore its image as a safe destination after months of political turmoil.

At a meeting in Bangkok, World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) secretary general Taleb Rifai and Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) chief executive Gregory Duffell pledged to work closely with Thailand to accelerate the recovery of the country’s tourism industry.

“UNWTO and its members stand behind Thailand,” Rifai said. “Valuable lessons and strategies used by other member states to confront similar crisis situations will be shared. This meeting also represents an expression of solidarity with Thailand from the international tourism community.”

Rifai praised Thai government’s efforts to revitalize the tourism industry, including a financial scheme for tourism entrepreneurs and small businesses affected by the unrest, exemption from the tourist visa fee for foreigners, and a landing and parking fee discount for airports.

The Kingdom’s image as the ‘Land of Smiles’ was shattered after thousands of anti-government protesters occupied Bangkok’s central shopping and hotel district in April and May and sporadic violence left 90 people dead and 1,885 injured.

Economic losses, including the torching of several of Bangkok’s landmark businesses, were estimated at 200 billion baht (6.25 billion dollars).

Thailand’s tourism industry was hurt by the outbreak of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, in 2003; by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004; and the closure of Bangkok’s two airports by protesters in 2008.

But the industry has proved resilient, bouncing back stronger each time.

Thais seek peace through art

Centre Daily

Out of Thailand’s bloody political turmoil that ended in mid-May, an art exhibit has emerged.

‘Imagine Peace’ opened last week and runs through August 22 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, located just a block from the protest zone in central Bangkok where protesters set up a makeshift campsite enclosed by a barricade of stacked rubber tires and bamboo spears.

Eighty artists have contributed works that include a rendition of the anti-government protesters’ rubber tire barricade – which sealed off parts of central Bangkok for weeks – to express “the desire for peace and reconciliation,” says curator Apinan Poshyananda.

Reconciliation is the latest catchword in Thai politics today, as the government tries to heal a nation fractured by the worst political violence in nearly two decades.
The 10 weeks of protests left 89 people dead and about 1,400 injured, and brought the capital’s luxury shopping district to a standstill.

The exhibit was cobbled together in three weeks. Organizers say they hope to rotate in new installations if more artists want to contribute, and even expand onto the streets outside the gallery if need be.

Jakarta develops tourism

The Jakarta Post
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has selected 200 villages across Indonesia as recipients of donations from the country’s Community Empowerment Fund (CEF) in a bid to develop tourism. The announcement was made yesterday.

Indonesia has announced a series of tourism development measures over the past few months. The country’s most visible competitor with Phuket is Bali, but many other destinations in the archipelago are under active grooming as tourism attractions.

The Director of Community Empowerment at the Ministry said that each village in Java would receive development funds, and that the villages were expected to develop tourism as a source of income for themselves and for the country.

The CEF program was initiated last year, with 104 villages receiving allocations of funds. An additional 450 villages will receive allocations next year, the Ministry says.

— Gazette Editors

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