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Saudi giant buys Crowne Plaza

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Saudi giant buys Crowne Plaza | Thaiger

KARON: The Crowne Plaza Karon Beach Phuket resort has been bought by Dubai-listed hotel and resort investment company Kingdom Hotel Investments (KHI), which is headed by Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud.

KHI paid US$98.5 million (3.7 billion baht) for the property, including US$30.5 million (1.1 billion baht) in debt.

The Prince was listed by Forbes magazine earlier this year as the world’s eighth-richest man, with an approximate worth of US$20 billion (750 billion baht).

It is the second time the resort has changed hands in just 2½ years. Originally the Karon Villa Resort, built in 1984 by the Vanich family, it was acquired in December 2003 by LaSalle Investment Management of the US and completely refurbished at a cost of US$20 million (750 million baht).

Crowne Plaza, a subsidiary of InterContinental, was brought in to manage the hotel, which made an initial splash by hosting the Nation V event, a three-day party that attracted 2,000 gay people from all over Asia.

An industry source told the Gazette that, with the sale to KHI, the management contract will go to Movenpick.

KHI already owns six Movenpick hotels or resorts, with six more in development. It also owns five Four Seasons Hotels, with three more being developed, and five Fairmonts, with another two to come (KHI owns Fairmont).

Prince Alwaleed at one time owned The Plaza in New York, but sold half his shares in that and reinvested the money in buying the Savoy Hotel in London and the Monte Carlo Grand in Monaco.

Apart from hotels, the Prince also owns 10% of Euro Disney SCA and large investments in AOL, Apple Computer, Worldcom, Motorola, News Corp and other technology and media companies.

In a press release marking the acquisition, KHI’s first in Asia, Prince Alwaleed was quoted as saying, “This is a rare opportunity to purchase a fully refurbished hotel in a pristine site on Phuket’s most popular West Coast.

“The hotel will benefit from the recovery of tourist arrivals to the region, and the early reconstruction of the area.”

Sarmad Zok, CEO of KHI, said, “We are delighted by the addition of the Crowne Plaza Phuket to our hotel portfolio, which represents the first opportunity for KHI in Asia. This further demonstrates our ability to consolidate our position in attractive growth emerging markets.”

As for the sellers, Andrew Heithersay, National Director of LaSalle Investment Management, said, “We have achieved our investment objectives on behalf of our LaSalle Asia Recovery Fund and wish Kingdom Hotel Investments continued success in their future endeavors at this beautiful resort.”

Phuket-based Bill Barnett, of hotel consultancy C9 Hotelworks, which was deeply involved in the acquisition of the property by LaSalle, told the Gazette, “There has been substantial acquisition and institutional investment activity on the island in the first quarter of 2006.

“Seeing firms such as Deutsche Bank, Lehmann Brothers, LaSalle Investment Management and now Kingdom Holdings showing confidence in substantial developments on the island is a key economic indicator.

“There are a number of internationally-managed properties currently being built, including big names such as Sofitel, Hyatt and Conrad. Locations such as Bang Yao, Cape Yamu, Mai Khao and Ao Por are receiving the most interest.

“Clearly Phuket is moving forward from the negatives experienced post-tsunami – the proof is in the checkbooks of the overseas investment funds.”

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Tourism

Phuket’s July Sandbox no-quarantine model “needs a major revamp”

Tim Newton

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Phuket’s July Sandbox no-quarantine model “needs a major revamp” | Thaiger
PHOTO: The monsoon waves are starting to hit Phuket's west coast

Thailand’s Sports and Tourism minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn is acknowledging that Phuket’s ‘Sandbox’ model for a no-quarantine re-opening in July will need “a major revamp”. As the Songkran travel bubble bursts and the monsoon season waves start to roll onto the island’s west coast beaches, Phuket’s scheduled July re-boot suddenly seems a long way off.

Minister Phiphat says he plans to meet with “all related agencies” this week. Apart from the latest national re-surge in new infections, Phuket has been unable to get its hands on sufficient vaccines to meed its deadline of 70% of the island vaccinated by July 1. Thailand’s limited supplies of the vaccine – including some 930,000 doses designated for Phuket – are being rerouted to other provinces as the government prioritises the limited supply.

“We are all concerned about the reopening timeline,” he was quoted in Bangkok Post.

But the Minister did acknowledge that, if the 70% vaccination level couldn’t be met, they may consider opening some areas of the island. Exactly how that would work hasn’t been revealed at this stage.

The minister also brought up the ongoing travel bubble negotiations and says he hadn’t heard back from some of the candidates with their reaction to the current outbreak.

Flights in and out of Phuket Airport’s international terminal have been extremely patchy and the flights from feeder tourist markets will need to co-operate with any re-opening plans.

Phuket, whilst suffering a rise in new infections, hasn’t been hit as hard as some of the other popular holiday provinces, like Chiang Mai, Chon Buri (Pattaya) and Prachuap Khiri Khan (Hua Hin).

This year’s Songkran was going to be a major stepping stone for the island’s recovery and many hotels, some who had opened especially to cater for Songkran holiday traffic, noted a lot of cancellations just prior to the break.

But some island hotels have still reported high occupancy rates over the past week. One Manager, who did not want his name published, said that their hotel was almost full with Thai patrons, most who had pre-paid for their flights and accommodation and decided to go ahead anyway.

Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, the president of the Phuket Tourist Association, says that they are opposed to any lockdown as it would cripple the island, with its tourist businesses already suffering greatly. He stated that 15% of people cancelled their Songkran bookings, while 30% had postponed their trips.

The Sports and Tourism Ministers is still in quarantine after having close contact with Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 2 weeks ago.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Phuket begs Kolour attendees to come for Covid-19 testing

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Phuket begs Kolour attendees to come for Covid-19 testing | Thaiger
FILE PHOTO: Kolour in the park was more pleasant in 2018 before Covid-19.

Health officials in Phuket put out a public statement this week compelling all foreigners who attended clubs and ‘Kolour’ events to report for Covid-19 testing. As many might expect, the response has been lacklustre at best. Spreading the message around the foreigner and expat community in Phuket, the message is aimed at the multitudes of people, mostly foreign who attended Kolour and related events that turned into a Covid-19 superspreader event. Many foreigners have not come forward, much to health officials chagrin.

Online and on social media, foreigners and Thais shed light on why this urgent public health request is going largely unheeded. Foreigners fear the repercussions of coming forward, especially since Thailand is not allowing staying home or elsewhere in isolation if someone tests positive for Covid-19. Quarantine is mandatory, and with infection numbers exploding across the country, many fear the less-than-posh comforts of being quarantined in an emergency field hospital.

Cost is the other factor that likely is preventing foreigners from turning themselves in to be tested for Covid-19. While Phuket health officials may test people for free, anyone found infected with Covid-19 will be financially responsible for all the costs of their treatment and quarantine. Foreigners with limited financial resources, especially after a year of holing up in Thailand to ride out the Coronavirus, may resist reporting to authorities when they cannot afford the mandatory quarantine and medical treatment.

Perhaps recognizing this hesitation, the message includes a plea for all attendees to self-quarantine and self-monitor for any symptoms over the next week, even if they fail to report or test negative. The note also reminds everyone to wear masks in public at all times. The statement to the public also instructed anyone who attended any of the Covid-19 spreading nightlife events to report to the Acute Respiratory Infection Clinic area of Vachira General Hospital to receive a Covid-19 swab test.

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions

Tim Newton

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Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions | Thaiger

Three of Thailand’s biggest expat areas are seeing sharp rises in new infections, partly from pre-Songkran traffic. The Songkran holidays, now officially over (but will see many people taking today off and making a weekend Songkran extension), and the government says they are expecting to see a rise in the cases numbers reported in the popular holiday locations.

Chon Buri Public Health office says they now have a total of 910 infections since April 1. They have 103 new cases in the past 24 hours. Most new cases are in Bang Lamung district which includes Pattaya City with 47, Siracha with 12) & Chon buri City with 8.

Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions | News by Thaiger

Meanwhile Phuket has a total of 142 infections recorded on the island with the Governor still insisting there will be no need for a lockdown. Here’s a breakdown of the areas and the numbers of recorded infections so far (below).

Governor Narong announced that the Phuket Infectious Disease Control Committee won’t be implementing an official lockdown, but will “strictly raise the intensity of public health measures to counter the spread of Covid-19″.

“Everyone should wear a face mask, maintain social distancing, wash their hands frequently and install the Mor Chana app (available for free from App Store and Google Play Store).”

A meeting of the CCSA, chaired by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha is expected to upgrade restrictions in red zone areas around the country, which includes Phuket and Pattaya. Read more about the latest red and orange zones HERE.

Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions | News by Thaiger

For Hua Hin expats, there’s been 100 new Covid-19 infections announced in Prachuap Khiri Khan in the past 24 hours, 75 cases from Hua Hin. This takes the total in the province since April 1 to 625. Hua Hin accounts for nearly 90% of the district’s total cases.

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