– A daily digest of news from around the world compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community.
PHUKET: Nok Air has relaunched its Smile Packages to Phuket, but this time they are grouped into categories — ‘Free and Easy’, Adventure’, ‘Discovery’ and ‘Sightseeing’. The promotion is valid until September 30.
According to TTR Weekly, the packages are based on a three-day/two-night itinerary, inclusive of return airfare to/from Bangkok, hotel accommodation, meals, airport transfer by limousine, and one activity. The basic Phuket package is priced at 4,900 baht. Prices rise as activities are added.
For example, travellers to Phuket can add snorkelling at Phi Phi Island, Maya Bay and Khai Island for an all-in price of 6,750 baht. Or they can opt for diving diving off Racha Yai Island in Phuket with a Smile Package priced at 9,400 baht. If they wish to add golf, the package rises to 14,650 baht.
In addition to Phuket, the airline is offering Smile Packages to Chiang Mai for a basic price of 4,750 baht, and to Phitsanulok starting at 4,450 baht.
Phuket people may be pleased to hear that Thailand is experiencing strong bookings once again, a tour operator has suggested.
Hayes and Jarvis say that despite all the recent troubles experienced in Thailand, the availability of cheap flights has contributed to an upturn in tourism.
Neil Alobaidi, commercial director for the global tour operator explains that there are some good deals for holidaymakers to take advantage of in the long-haul holiday market.
“While the political instability definitely dented bookings in the short term, while the country was hitting the headlines, Thailand has now turned the corner and bookings for Phuket and Koh Samui are exceptionally strong,” says Mr. Alobaidi.
His comments come after the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) announced that it would be running a range of promotional strategies to tempt visitors back to Phuket and seven other key tourist destinations.
Official figures show that there was a 6.8 per cent decline in visitor numbers in June, compared to last year.
Pegas Touristik, a Russian tour operator, plans to increase its charter flights from points in Russia to Phuket and Bangkok during the up-coming winter season. It estimates it can sell Thailand tours to 4,500 tourists a week.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand estimates the Russian market will grow by at least 30% this year.
Phuket has wittnessed a substantial rise not only in Russian tourism over the past three years, but also in the number of homes purchased and businesses established by Russians.
Pegas Touristik’s deputy general manager, Abdullah Cankaya, told TTR Weekly that during the coming winter season the company plans to operate three charter flights a day – one to Phuket and two to Bangkok – from cities in Russia. They will 215-seat Boeing 757s for the service.
If the flights are fully booked, they will bring to Thailand 4,515 Russians a week, Mr Abdullah says.
“Last season, we faced some difficulties due to [the] demonstrations in Bangkok. We reduced flights, but we did not stop bringing in people like some of the European operators. We believe that if you support a country in bad times, you will benefit during good times,” he said.
The New York Times
In Thailand, when the rains come and the rivers swell, giant bones tend to wash up in Baan Nakum, a remote rice-farming corner of the Kingdom.
It turns out that the creatures of prehistory, like the tourists of today, found certain parts of Thailand very hospitable. Now their bones are scattered amongst the rice paddies of those areas.
Paleontologists say that the Khorat Plateau of northeastern Thailand was teeming with dinosaurs starting about 200 million years ago (Bangkok was under the sea at the time), and that the proof is in the frequency with which villagers find dinosaur bones and other fossils.
“Sometimes we discover three or four new sites with dinosaur bones in a single month,” said Preechit Phulanpree, an assistant geologist at a local dinosaur museum. “Usually we find the bones stuck in a riverbank.”
Now public figures can escape prying eyes by retreating to Thailand where they can discreetly overcome addictions with their dignity intact.
“People come to Thailand for anonymity,” says Wade Dupuis of Channah Thailand, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation retreat in Kanchanaburi Province. “You can avoid the stigma of rehab by saying you simply went on holiday. We get clients from all over the world — a lot from the Middle East, a few from the UK and America, and many expats living in Asia.”
“In the last 18 months, we’ve had clients from 24 different countries across four continents,” says Stephen Russell of Breathing Space Thailand in Chiang Mai. “This programme really does have international appeal.”
Thailand already enjoys international acclaim for superb medical and spa services. Over the last five years holistic wellness, detoxification and weight loss programmes have grown fast, both in terms of popularity and accessibility, and drug and alcohol rehabilitation services are springing up off the back of this sector.
Thailand now hosts a number of centres that offer Hollywood-style services and expert treatments that have attracted celebrities, politicians, business people and professionals from around the world.
Laotian labour officials plan to be in Thailand next week to identify tens of thousands of labourers working there, legally and illegally, news reports said yesterday.
The team is to stay for an unspecified time to identify an estimated 62,000 Lao nationals who have registered in Thailand for legal status under the two governments’ Nationality Verification Programme (NVP), the Vientiane Times reported.
The officials were originally scheduled to be in Thailand in February but postponed their trip, citing planned anti-government protests in Bangkok that began on March 12, lasted two months and prompted clashes that left 90 dead.
An estimated 200,000 Lao nationals work in Thailand, and nearly a third have applied for legal status under the NVP.
— Gazette Editors
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