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Phuket

Phuket tourism update: TAT to strengthen Aussie, Kiwi markets

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket tourism update: TAT to strengthen Aussie, Kiwi markets | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: In a bid to encourage more visitors to Thailand after the recent political turmoil, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has introduced new products and packages to 30 key travel operators in Australia and New Zealand.

The overall package was announced yesterday by TAT governor Suraphon Svetasreni.

Australia and New Zealand were chosen as the first overseas mission for the agency in the new fiscal year to bring back tourists by enhancing cooperation between the TAT and business partners in those countries.

Even though Thailand has faced challenging times recently, Australia and New Zealand have remained supportive of the Thai tourism sector, as evidenced by the increase in the number of visitors over the past year.

In Australia, the TAT will promote eco-adventures and Thai culture holidays through joint marketing with tour companies. These initiatives will offer real-life experiences focusing on soft adventure, culture, Thai cuisine and local lifestyles, he said.

The agency will also encourage Australians and New Zealanders to break up their long-haul trips to Europe by stopping over in Bangkok for a few days.

“We have such programs as ’72 Hours in Bangkok’, which offers a short-time package in the capital and nearby areas. Visitors can get into the city quickly and easily for some sightseeing or shopping,” Mr Suraphon said.

Meanwhile, the TAT is urging Thais living in Australia to help reinforce the Thailand brand by working with Thai communities to organize festivals such as Loi Krathong and Songkran.

From January to August, Thailand received 440,000 Australian visitors, up 11% over the same period last year.

Of these, about 63% were repeat visitors. They stayed an average of 12 days and spent an average of 4,725 baht per person per day, according to TAT statistics. This contributed about A$1.32 billion in tourism revenue to the economy.

Australians tend to be all-year-round visitors, which benefits the industry in the low season.

In the same nine-month period, Thailand welcomed 57,000 New Zealand visitors, up by 2% year-on-year. About 63% were repeat visitors, and they stayed an average of 12 days and spent an average of 3,945 baht per person per day.

New Zealand visitors are increasingly interested in Thai tourism products, including spas and wellness, golf, diving, eco-tourism, “soft adventure”, trekking, mountain climbing, Thai cooking classes, weddings and honeymoons.

“In 2011, we will continue the national Amazing Thailand campaign, with an ‘Always Amazes You’ tagline to reinforce the positive emotions visitors have in relation to the Thainess that differentiates the country from other holiday destinations. New Zealand is one of the key markets for these products,” Mr Suraphon said.

There are currently 71 direct weekly flights between Thailand (Bangkok and Phuket) and the Australian cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane.

“The TAT will take Phuket’s popularity in Australia and New Zealand to the next level. We are positioning Phuket as the gateway into other parts of Thailand and the neighboring countries of Cambodia, Laos, Burma and Vietnam, as well as southern China,” Mr Suraphon said.

According to official data, international arrivals in Thailand from January to August were more than 10 million, which is 13% higher than the same period last year.

The TAT hopes to see 14 million arrivals for the full year.

— The Nation

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Phuket

Phuket’s annual vegetarian festival gets the green light – VIDEO

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket’s annual vegetarian festival gets the green light – VIDEO | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Caitlin Ashworth

WARNING: The content below contains photos and videos of self-mutilation that some may find disturbing.

Somehow Phuket’s annual vegetarian festival is to go ahead next month, but officials say they will ask participants to strictly observe social distancing. Good luck with that! For those who don’t know, the festival isn’t exactly known for the food. It’s known for blood, body mutilation and more blood.

During street processions for the weeklong event, also known as the Nine Gods Festival, so called “mah songs” are known to practice self-mutilation and are said to enter a trance-like state, channeling spirits through their body. “Mah” means horse in Thai, and many suggest the mah song acts like a horse for the spirit to ride.

Many mah songs pierce their checks, ears and lips, some with large swords and thick needles. Some slice their tongues continuously for hours, blood dripping down on the street. Others appear to be in a trace walk barefoot as firecrackers explode on the ground.

Mah songs march down Phuket’s streets for hours with a team of devotees to help tend to their wounds, adjust the piercings, wipe away drool and blood, and keep them hydrated. It’s understood that devotees wear white as a symbol of purity. It’s also reported that they abstain from eating meat, drinking alcohol and having sex during the weeklong festival.

It seems gruesome, but it’s actually very spiritual. Business owners and locals line the street, some setting up altars. Mah songs stop at each one and do a quick ritual. Some mah songs carry a black flag, waving it over onlookers who bow their heads and place their hands in the “wai” position. Some spend time blessing the elderly and handing out bracelets to children. During a procession last year, a woman held up a bracelet as said “the ‘Spirit’ gave this to my mother.”

This year, the festival will have to be a little different to abide by coronavirus prevention measures. The Bangkok Post says it’s the first festival since the outbreak. The head festival organiser Prasert Fukthongphol says “we will seriously enforce social distancing measures and require all participants to wear face masks.”

The grotesque piercings, noisy parades and visits to the shrine, are good news for Phuket’s tourism and bad news if you’re a vegetable. Many adherents to the Chinese-heritage local festival will go without sex, alcohol and meat for the week of so of the festival. The week of events and ceremonies hopes to scare away the bad gods again but, especially this year, attract some extra visitors to the festival.

Another Vegetarian Festival in Chon Buri has also been given the green light. The event is planned for October 16 to the 26. This year’s main event for the festival will be in Naklua at Sawangboriboon Thammasathan Foundation at the Sein Sua Chinese Temple, but many other events will be around the city throughout the week.

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Pattaya News

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Phuket

Officials says no illegal land encroachment at Phuket’s Sri Panwa resort

Maya Taylor

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Officials says no illegal land encroachment at Phuket’s Sri Panwa resort | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Sri Panwa Phuket Resort - Sri Panwa Phuket

After coming in for some negative online attention recently, the land title deeds of the Sri Panwa Phuket resort have been investigated and found “to be in order”. The 5-star hotel first attracted the attention of netizens when its owner, Vorasit Issara, publicly criticised anti-government activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, calling for her arrest. He also claimed she wasn’t Thai, a factually wrong and inflammatory statement.

His Instagram tirade prompted outrage from those who support the current protest movement, with netizens calling for a boycott of his property and leaving several negative comments on various review sites. Trip Advisor suspended the hotel’s account due to the online attack.

Shortly after, the Civil Society for State Welfare called on the Social Security Office to clarify its investment in the resort’s trust fund. This was echoed by at least one opposition MP and anti-corruption activists.

Responding to the land rights issue, the Phuket Land Office has issued a statement to say the hotel does not occupy state land. The resort stands on 56 rai of prime real estate, overlooking Phuket’s south-eastern coast. The land office has confirmed its paperwork is all in order.

Meanwhile, it’s understood Charn Issara Development, owners of the property, have threatened to sue the resort’s critics for defamation.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Economy

70% of Phuket’s tourism businesses are closed, many for good

Caitlin Ashworth

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70% of Phuket’s tourism businesses are closed, many for good | The Thaiger
FILE PHOTO

Most tourism businesses in Phuket have closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and they probably won’t be up and running again until foreign tourists are let back in Thailand. Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew says around 70% of tourism businesses have closed, most of them just temporarily, but some have shut down permanently. But the statistics are not quite that simple, with the east side of the island, largely inhabited by locals with the central business district of Phuket Town and some of the more popular expat towns, doing far better than the tourist magnets of the west coast. The Thaiger estimates that on the west coast the number would exceed 90%.

Before the pandemic, tourism to Phuket brought in 450 billion baht a year with 400 billion baht from foreign visitors while the other 50 billion baht was from domestic tourists. Thailand has been trying to increase domestic tourism to help revive the industry after the pandemic. Phuket’s governor says it helps, but not enough.

“Their visits can help solve some of our economic problems, but they cannot replace the need of foreign tourists.”

66.8% of tourism businesses in Phuket have closed temporarily while 2.8% have closed permanently, according to data by the Digital Economy Promotion Agency. (Again the percentage along the west coast is MUCH higher – just take a drive through Paton, Kat, Karon). Phuket’s governor is trying figure out how to recover the economy. And fast.

“By the end of September, the number of businesses to be closed will increase up to 70% for sure.”

While many businesses are closed, the governor says Phuket is “almost 100% ready to welcome foreign tourists.” The governor says he can’t give an answer to when foreign tourists will arrive in Phuket, but he claims they’ve “prepared every step,” from checking in at the airport to hotel quarantine. They’re just going to install some new temperature check machines at the Phuket International Airport and review the procedures for welcoming the tourists.

“We have to work and prepare carefully to welcome foreign tourists… We have to gradually open our door to welcome small groups of people first, in order to test our system, and then open for bigger groups.”

At the moment, only 3 venues in Phuket have been approved to operate as alternative state quarantine facilities. Anantara Phuket Suites & Villas has 100 rooms available, Anantara Mai Khao Phuket has 36 villas and Trisara resort has 15 villas. All are 5 star venues with a commensurate 5 star cost.

SOURCE: Phuket News

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