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Phuket tourism operators warned to prepare for AFTA

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket tourism operators warned to prepare for AFTA | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Phuket tourism operators were warned very plainly yesterday that they must become game-changers if they want to stay in business after 2015.

The warning was fired at the Phuket Creative Tourism Forum held at Royal Phuket Marina. The forum was organized by the Phuket Tourism Association (PTA) in conjunction with Phuket Rajabhat University’s Faculty of Management Science.

Somprasong Khomapat, Inspector-General of the Ministry of Tourism & Sports, opened the event with a no-nonsense description of Phuket’s tourism playing field.

“Phuket is its own brand. People know where Phuket is without saying ‘in Thailand’. The challenge is how to preserve the good things that Phuket has, how to develop human potential to compete with other ASEAN tourist cities, and how to create Phuket tourism as sustainable industry,” Somprasong said.

“Potential staff is the most important part to make the difference and add value to our tourism products and services. Members may learn some answers from this seminar,” Mr Somprasong said.

PTA President Somboon Jirayus highlighted that the clock was ticking, with the ASEAN Free-Trade Agreement (AFTA) due to come into effect in 2015.

“Thailand will join AFTA in next four years, which means stronger competition among ASEAN members. So we cannot keep running our businesses using the same old strategy. We have to create new strategies to keep the old customers and attract new ones,” he said.

Mr Somboon explained that the PTA had set the goal of developing Phuket as “City of Creative Tourism”.

“To support that goal, we are holding this seminar to help our members exchange ideas and to listen to new comments from invited experts on creative issues,” he said.

The first session of the event was a stage discussion entitled “How to develop Phuket’s potential to be ready to join AFTA”.

“Phuket should focus on maintaining brand positioning and we should bring in more creative persons from throughout ASEAN to work with us, because everybody already wants to come here for vacation. We need to offer something different,” said Prof Chira Hongladarom, Secretary-General of the Foundation for International Human Resource Development.

“IT facilities and human capacity should also be a primary focus of development,” he added.

Mr Somprasong of the Ministry of Tourism & Sports suggested Phuket rekindle ties with sister city Nice, in France.

“It would be a good chance to add value to Phuket by bringing back this relationship. When people talk about Nice, people will associate Phuket with it,” he said.

Vichit Na Ranong, one of the pioneers of Phuket tourism and a former president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, expressed concern about preserving Phuket’s natural resources, which he said was still the key factor in attracting tourists.

“We are so proud of the income generated from tourism and the number of visitors we attract, and the worldwide recognition we have gained, but our success is not yet complete.

“Everyone is happy to reap the benefits from Phuket’s land, sea, sand and sun, which are considered our main ‘arteries’, but few people are concerned about preserving them,” he said.

“I worry that if our natural resources are destroyed, then there will be nothing left for us to compete with,” Mr Vichit added.

— Pimwara Choksakulpan

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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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