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Phuket convention center impasse triggers political concerns

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Phuket convention center impasse triggers political concerns | The Thaiger
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ANALYSIS

PHUKET: The latest political obstacle to the construction of an international convention and exhibition center on the island is a staggering blow to the Phuket tourism industry.

Over the past five years, the nation’s domestic political infighting has crippled efforts to develop a sustainable plan for tourism in Thailand. As Asia led the world in a post-2008 economic surge, a dynamic shift from foreign to Thai investment in the hotel business has spawned an uncontrolled countrywide surge in the number of new properties being built.

Ranging from the feasible to the illogical, the influx of new tourist accommodations and the long line of new projects yet to be completed are endangering virtually every destination in the country.

Hotel development has made a dangerous transition. In the past, decisions to enter the industry were typically based on sound business criteria. Nowadays, many people pursue the trade as a hobby, secondary line of business or in some cases just to serve as a showcase for friends and family. In many cases, no feasibility study or initial financial projections accompany the investment decision.

As a result, many of the hotels and resorts that are now cropping up are bulk-standard, mid-scale properties that have few distinctive or unique offerings: they lack differentiation.

First-time hotel owners are generally investing in the provision of guest rooms only, with few looking into other demand generators for tourists. New master-planned resorts, with open areas and a wide array of facilities, are increasingly becoming an endangered species.

While the number of guest rooms has multiplied on private-sector investment, there has been little to no effective governmental regulation of this growth through zoning and other controls. Worse still, government infrastructure projects needed to keep pace with the growth are too often focused on bringing in ever-more tourists. This is perhaps the very definition of non-sustainability.

So many rooms, so many tourists, and what is there for them to do? Players in Phuket’s travel industry often complain about the rising number of less-affluent guests, but what would one expect if all that is available is an seemingly unlimited supply of anonymous 32-square-meter rooms?

As of the mid-year mark, the island had 43,571 hotel rooms. Another 6,968 were in the pipeline and will open by the end of 2014.

Airport arrivals in 2011 are expected to top a record four million and total airport passenger throughput will near eight million people. An expansion plan to boost the airport’s capacity to 12.5 million by 2014 is underway.

With the number of hotel rooms growing and the airport expansion project, it is inevitable that more tourists will come. The clear and present danger is that there is no choice but to be thrust further down the dead-end expressway of volume mass tourism. That is, rooms to fill at any price.

But the price that Phuket will pay will be catastrophic.

An international convention center, be it located in Mai Khao, Patong or Phuket Town, would serve as a leading generator to diversify the inbound market and wean it off its growing over-reliance on charter and group tours. Domestic and international MICE business (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) are a necessary component of any developed market – be it Singapore, Hong Kong and even resort islands such as Bali.

In the case of the latter, a new conference center is being built at the Nusa Dua destination resort.

Given recent history, it is illogical to expect that the rejection of the Phuket convention center plan, as an isolated government intervention into the island’s tourism future, is part of a changing attitude to get things right. One has to ask whether this is a case of political agendas colliding, or the shape of change with a greater awareness of planning foresight.

While officials wallow in indecision over tunnels, flyovers, convention centers and public transport, leaving Phuket’s future very much a foggy blur, the rest of the world continues to move forward.

Holistic long-term tourism planning is the only way forward: planning that includes stemming the number of new hotels, encouraging renovation and upgrades, strict enforcement of environmental control measures and appropriate and sustainable land-use zoning.

The key word here is “sustainability”, and to finally move toward this goal requires diversification.

To punish Phuket by laying waste to a key and necessary infrastructure boost to the island’s tourism economy is a shame. It’s that simple.

For now, Phuket has all rooms in the world, but very few places for people staying in those rooms to go.

— Bill Barnett

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Phuket

Phuket’s Soi Dog Foundation opens Humane Education Centre at Mai Khao shelter

The Thaiger

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Phuket’s Soi Dog Foundation opens Humane Education Centre at Mai Khao shelter | The Thaiger

The Soi Dog Foundation has officially opened its Humane Education Centre, the first of its kind in Thailand dedicated to the welfare of stray animals. The centre, located at the Soi Dog shelter in northern Phuket, forms part of the foundation’s Humane Education program. Rolled out in 2017, the program sees a team visit Thai schools to teach the next generation the basic principles of animal welfare and promote empathetic attitudes towards both owned pets and free-roaming strays.

The program has reached a total of 15,058 students and 861 teachers to date. With a dedicated classroom as well as educational tools and resources now on site at the shelter, Soi Dog will be able to expand the programme and reach an even greater number of young minds.

Co-founder and president of Soi Dog Foundation International John Dalley said, “The cornerstones of what we do – what I believe very firmly are the answers to the stray dog problem throughout Asia – are large-scale sterilisation of stray dogs and cats and education of, particularly, the next generation.

“We see all the time the problems that are being caused through us not respecting the environment and not respecting the other animals with whom we share this planet. That’s why education is so important.”

John also thanked the supporters and donors who made the construction of the centre possible. After cutting the ribbon, the students filed into the brand-new facility for the very first on-site class – a fun and interactive hour of roleplaying, brainstorming and problem solving.

Humane Education Manager Nuttawut “Film” Kumngern. said… “We want to encourage kindness toward animals, especially free-roaming dogs and cats, and teach youngsters to be responsible pet owners. This will sustainably reduce animal cruelty and pet abandonment.”

“We hope to one day see animal welfare incorporated into the curriculum in Thai schools, and our education centre is a great start.”

Soi Dog is ready to welcome school groups from Phuket and other provinces to the centre which can accommodate up to 40 students at any one time. Schools interested in participating are encouraged to email film@soidog.org

Phuket's Soi Dog Foundation opens Humane Education Centre at Mai Khao shelter | News by The ThaigerPhuket's Soi Dog Foundation opens Humane Education Centre at Mai Khao shelter | News by The Thaiger

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International Schools

Police have yet to investigate illegal hiring of foreign teachers at international school in Phuket

The Thaiger

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Police have yet to investigate illegal hiring of foreign teachers at international school in Phuket | The Thaiger

Chalong police in Phuket say they have yet to start investigating the illegal hiring of foreign teachers at an international school in Rawai, south of the island. Palm House International School allegedly hired foreign teachers illegally in which 2 were arrested by Phuket Immigration police on November 4.

Somkiet Sarasin, the leading investigator of the case, says the 2 Brits were informed that police were processing a charge of working illegally in the country against them, in which both denied the charges. Somkiet says the 2 were released on bail, but did not confirm the amount of bail that was set by the police.

“They are still staying in Thailand. I am not worried. I have their passports. I am not available to explain [any details] because the investigation is still ongoing.”

“This is normal for an investigation when the suspects deny the charge against them. I have to check more information against their claims. This case will probably be concluded next month.”

However, the investigation has yet to begin, with Somkiet saying he has not even questioned the owner of the school, despite his claims the case would be finished next month.

“The investigation into the school will take time. The investigation into the two British people must be finished first.”

Such allegations of foreign teachers working illegally have recently been in the news after Sarasas Witaed Sainoi Pitiyakarn School, in the central province of Nonthaburi, saw 7 foreign teachers probed for being hired illegally. That school, along with others in its private network, made nationwide news after CCTV caught a Thai teacher hitting, pushing and dragging a young student in the classroom. Such widespread violence against students has long been a sad component of many Thai schools, in which some of the teachers are unqualified and unlicensed to teach, but are hired anyway.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Tourism

Phuket sees 300 million baht boost over long holiday weekend

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Phuket sees 300 million baht boost over long holiday weekend | The Thaiger

The Tourism Authority of Thailand says that Phuket has received a much-needed 300 million baht boost over the 4 day long weekend with around 54,000 tourists flocking to the island from last Thursday through to yesterday.

Phuket Office Director Nanthasiri Ronnasiri, reports that the average expenditure per visitor was about 5,500 baht, which was higher than the average spend for a Thai tourist to Phuket 2 years ago. She also noted that random checks on hotels showed that occupancy rates climbed to about 35%, with most guests staying 2 nights. But most of Phuket’s hotels remain closed.

Nanthasiri also says that many of the tourists concentrated themselves in the Phuket Old Town area, especially around Thalang Road, Phang Nga Road, and Dibuk Road in order to enjoy at the Sino-Portuguese shophouse architecture and historical locations. In fact much of Phuket Town, including its many markets and alley eateries, were doing roaring business, The Thaiger can vouch for the heavy traffic, on the roads and footpaths, over the past 4 days.

“This special holiday made Phuket tourism livelier, even though it was not as same as the situation before the Covid-19 pandemic.”

In fact, despite the welcome surge of visitors, it was still a long, long way from its previous tourist levels with much of the west coast, which has largely catered for the international tourist traffic, was still very quiet in places like Patong, Kata and Karon.

Phuket wasnt the only destination that has profited off of the long weekend as Chiang Mai saw droves of Thai tourists visiting its Royal Park Rajapruek as well as the northern city’s other nearby national parks and tourist areas. Visitors came from all over to see the blossoming of flowers in a beautiful display at the park as well as enjoying the air-purifying flowers as they relaxed. Tourists were able to rent a bicycle for 60 baht if they wanted to exercise while taking in the scenery and could also pay a visit to the orchid greenhouse, which hosts a variety of orchids in bloom. TripAdvisor recommends to set aside 2 hours to visit the park.

Next holiday weekend, on November 27 and 28, Pattaya is expected to get a tourism boost as its annual fireworks festivalis set to bring in travellers who have taken advantage of package deals offered by some beachside hotels. Such packages were offered for advance bookings, where holidaymakers could view the firework shows on the rooftops of their hotels. The firework displays are said to be long with breaks of entertainment-packed shows, featuring live music and student bands amongst others.

Phuket sees 300 million baht boost over long holiday weekend | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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