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Private funding offered for convention center

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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NAI YANG: Phuket’s decades-old of dream of having an International Convention and Exhibition Center (ICEC) took a step forward on May 28, when Tourism and Sports Minister Suwit Yodmanee ordered the formation of a provincial committee and gave it 60 days to decide where the center should be sited.

The move follows a May 25 meeting of ING Funds (Thailand) Co Ltd Managing Director Maris Tarab with Phuket Governor Niran Kalayanamit and Suwalai Pinpradab, Director of Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Southern Region 4 office in Phuket, at the Governor’s Office at Phuket Provincial Hall.

Mr Maris proposed that ING Funds build a 10,000-seat conference and exhibition center on some 2,000 rai in Mai Khao under the control of the Treasury Department’s State Property Management and Services Office, or Ratchapassadu.

Mr Maris’ plan for ING to completely fund the center’s construction on a 30-year “build-operate-transfer” agreement with the government was well-received by Gov Niran.

During a meeting with Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont in Krabi, Gov Niran was told to find private sector funding for the convention center, as the interim government had no intention of granting funding approval.

Under the ING proposal, the firm would rent the land under a 30-year lease, during which it would build and manage the center using subcontracted firms, both Thai and foreign, Mr Maris told Gov Niran.

“Construction could be completed within one year…All we need from the government is a land lease agreement,” he said.

Also attending the meeting was Montree Buritan, Managing Director of building firm EkCa Thai Co Ltd, which will design and build the center if the ING proposal is approved.

EkCA Thai already has plans drawn up for a meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) center with seating for 10,000. The model, based on an existing convention center in Chiang Mai, could be easily modified for the Mai Khao site. Construction could begin within two months after approval, he said.

Gov Niran said, “This idea is brilliant. I have long been interested in finding private sector investment for a convention center, but usually we end up needing about 1 billion baht in government investment, and we have had trouble reaching any solid conclusions about where it should be located.

“This is the easiest way, especially as using Ratchapassadu land means we will not be required to comply with the laws that apply to private sector developments on state land or seek Cabinet approval,” he added.

Phuket’s tourism industry has suffered for too long from its inability to host large MICE events, he said.

The complex could attract further investment to Mai Khao, where an investment boom in medical services, spas and yachting could lead to the develop of a “new city” in line with provincial development plans, he said.

However, meetings would first need to be held to discuss related issues, such as laws on foreign investment and environmental impact, he added.

On May 28, after Gov Niran had left on a trip to Finland, Dr Suwit chaired a meeting at the Indigo Pearl Hotel in Nai Yang. Attending the gathering were TAT Governor Pornsiri Manoharn, Phuket Vice-Governor Worapoj Ratthasima, and representatives from state agencies and private sector groups, including the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), the Board of Investment of Thailand (BOI), Phuket Tourist Association, Phuket Chamber of Commerce, Phuket Treasury Office and representatives of ING Funds.

After lengthy discussions, it was agreed that the project should go ahead only with private sector funding, with the government agreeing not to undermine such investment by funding a rival convention center in the province in the future.

Following objections that the Mai Khao site is too far from the island’s main population centers, the intractable problem of where to site the center once again reared its head.

Wichit Na-Ranong, who sits on the Thailand Tourism Council advisory board and is also the Managing Director to the Pearl Group of hotels, said that the presence of hotel accommodation, public services and transport links all needed to be considered in the siting decision.

The two sites now under consideration in Mai Khao, including the one being eyed by ING Funds, may be lacking in this regard, he said.

Phuket Real Estate Club President and former Phuket City Mayor Phummisak Hongsyok was among those who said that local investors should be allowed to submit proposals for the project, rather than automatically cede it to foreign investment.

Both K. Wichit and K. Phummisak lead two of Phuket’s largest families of landowners.

After the meeting, Dr Suwit asked the Governor’s Office to appoint a committee, to be chaired by the governor himself, to be responsible for reaching a final agreement on the siting issue. The panel should consult with the TCEB and submit its final decision to him within 60 days, he said.

In the interim, private sector parties are allowed to submit bids using either of the two sites on Ratchapassadu land in Mai Khao or land held by the private parties themselves.

BOI officials would review the ING Funds proposal during that period, he said.

“This committee will choose the best location, considering such factors as proximity to the city center and the airport… It shouldn’t be too hard for them to make a decision with the input of so many people attending today, most of whom are local businessmen familiar with the issues involved and the local geography. We also need their input on how the center should be managed and what role the government should play,” Dr Suwit said.

TAT studies have determined that the minimum land area needed for the project is 125 rai, he added.

Noting that the current TAT proposal for the project has been pending for about four years, Dr

 

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Thailand

Phuket to rollout rapid Covid-19 testing campaign for visitors

Tanutam Thawan

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Photo via Flickr

A rapid Covid-19 antigen testing campaign for visitors to Phuket is being rolled out to quickly detect cases in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus. The island province is set to reopen to foreign tourists in July, that is if the virus is contained and if at least 70% of the population is vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The rapid testing campaign will start today and go until May 15. Visitors from Krabi, Ranong, Trang, and Phatthalung will be tested, according to deputy Phuket governor Piyapong Choowong. After May 15, those entering Phuket through official checkpoints will under Covid-19 tests funded by the National Health Security Office.

If daily new Covid-19 infections are more than 20 after the rapid testing campaign ends next week, then local officials will impose stricter disease control measures to help contain the virus.

In the recent wave of infections over the past month, there have been 493 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Phuket with 229 currently in treatment, according to the chief of the provincial public health office, Koosak Kookiattikul. To help contain Covid-19 in Phuket, the governor has also ordered local officials to find at-risk groups and carry out active case finding campaigns.

Despite the recent Covid-19 outbreak, Phuket is still scheduled to reopen under the so-called sandbox model, allowing foreign tourists who are vaccinated against Covid-19 to travel to the island without undergoing quarantine. A mass vaccination campaign is being rolled out on the island province in an effort to vaccinate 70% of the population, reaching herd immunity, by the end of June. Expats in Phuket with a valid work permit will be able to register for a vaccine starting next week.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Tourism

Tourism Minister says Phuket must reach zero infections before July re-opening

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: Flickr

The Tourism and Sports Minister insists the southern island of Phuket must record zero Covid-19 cases if a planned July re-opening is to go ahead. Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn adds that, should new infections be reported once 70% of the island is vaccinated, the Tourism and Public Health Ministries will work together to decide what action to take.

Tourism operators in Phuket are desperately clinging to the hope that the island’s July re-opening will go ahead, with many businesses seeing it as their last chance. The so-called “sandbox model” would see the island reopened to vaccinated foreign tourists without mandatory quarantine. Phiphat says tourism officials hope to attract between 3 and 4 million international visitors.

The Bangkok Post reports that in the last quarter of the year, the model will be extended to other parts of the country, including Phang Nga, Krabi, Koh Samui, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, and Bangkok.

“We have to speed up inoculations, particularly in Bangkok, to achieve herd immunity by the fourth quarter. The number of daily infections should be below 200 by the end of this month to restore international tourism confidence.”

Given that many people may need a lot of persuasion to travel, particularly if it means mandatory quarantine once they get home, there may be some raised eyebrows at the government’s decision to charge foreign arrivals a 300 baht “tourism fee”. Yes, you read that correctly…

Phiphat says that particular initiative will launch in January, with the proceeds used to create a fund to help the tourism industry survive any future calamities. He calculates that if Thailand gets 20.8 foreign tourists in 2022, the fund will have 6.2 billion baht to future-proof the sector.

According to the Bangkok Post, once Thailand gets its Covid-19 outbreak under control officials plan to re-open travel bubble discussions with neighbouring countries, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Laos, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Foreigners can register for vaccination next month (next week for some on Phuket)

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: Pixnio

But when they will actually be vaccinated remains up in the air. While a Public Health Ministry spokesperson declared just days ago that Covid-19 vaccines were reserved for Thais, not expats, the government now says that statement was taken out of context.

Yesterday, Opas Kankawinpong from the Disease Control Department confirmed that foreigners living in Thailand would also be vaccinated.

“Anyone living in Thailand, be they Thai or foreign, will be able to get the vaccine if they want it. No one is safe until everyone is safe.”

Opas went on to say that the goal of herd immunity means vaccinating at least 70% of those living here – both Thai and foreign. He says there is an estimated 3 million foreign nationals living in the Kingdom long-term, pointing out that a significant proportion of the migrant worker population in Samut Sakhon has now been vaccinated. The central province was the epicentre of a second wave of infections in December, centred around its fish markets and factories.

According to the Bangkok Post, Opas then went on to say foreigners who want to be vaccinated can contact their embassy. However, judging by the comments on social media, no foreigner who has tried this has had any success. Both the British and Australian embassies have told their citizens that they are covered under Thailand’s vaccination rollout – and that’s that.

Opas says priority for foreigners will be accorded in the same way as it is for Thais. The eldery and at-risk, as well as those living in high-risk areas and people with underlying conditions, will be first in line. Inoculation is expected to be carried out using the locally-produced AstraZeneca vaccine.

Meanwhile, Pensom Lertsithichai from the Foreign Ministry says that from next month, foreigners should be able to register to be vaccinated.

“The ministry is trying their best to help foreigners, so they can either use the mobile app or contact hospitals directly and register to be vaccinated.”

Phuket is a step ahead, with the Phuket News confirming that foreigners working on the southern island can register to be vaccinated from next Tuesday. However, they must be in possession of a valid work permit and have their employer register them on the “Phuket Must Win” website.

Phuket expats without a work permit will be included in the following phase. The island is in a race to vaccinate 70% of its population in order to re-open to vaccinated international tourists from July.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post | The Phuket News

 

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