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Saudi giant buys Crowne Plaza

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Saudi giant buys Crowne Plaza | The Thaiger
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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.

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
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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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Phuket

Thailand’s Social Security Office forced to explain investment in Sri Panwa Phuket Resort trust fund

Maya Taylor

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Thailand’s Social Security Office forced to explain investment in Sri Panwa Phuket Resort trust fund | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Sri Panwa Phuket Resort - Sri Panwa Phuket

The Social Security Office, a department under the direction of Thailand’s Ministry of Labour, is being asked to explain its investment in the trust fund of Phuket’s Sri Panwa Phuket Resort. The demand comes as members of the opposition and political activists call for an investigation into the property’s land rights. The owner of Sri Panwa Phuket, Vorasit Issara, has been condemned online recently, with his property attracting multiple negative reviews, after he criticised anti-government protest leader, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul.

Thai PBS World reports that the Civil Society for State Welfare is calling on the SSO to clarify its investment in the Sri Panwa Hospitality Real Estate Investment Trust, thought to be worth around 500 million baht. Nimit Thian-udom says that, while the SSO’s investment does not break any laws, the board must explain the reasons behind the investment decision and clarify the return on that investment. In addition, he says the SSO should attach more importance to good governance when choosing where to invest.

The call for clarity is echoed by opposition MP Chirayu Huangsap, from the Pheu Thai Party, who calls on the Labour Minister to explain the investment. He adds that any discrepancies will be reported to both the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission.

The land rights of the luxury Sri Panwa Phuket resort, which sits on prime land atop Phuket’s Cape Panwa, overlooking the south-eastern tip of the island, are also being called into question. Veera Somkwamkid, from the People’s Network Against Corruption, says he is looking into the property’s land rights and will pass his findings to the Department of Special Investigations.

For his part, the Labour Minister, Somsak Thepsuthin, says he doesn’t know if the property has been legally built, saying it’s up to the DSI to investigate and that a complaint does not need to be filed in order for them to do so.

Meanwhile, review site Tripadvisor has had to suspend reviews for the Sri Panwa resort, as anti-government netizens exact their revenge on the proprietor by posting negative feedback on the property.

“Due to a recent event that has attracted media attention and has caused an influx of review submissions that do not describe a first-hand experience, we have temporarily suspended publishing new reviews for this listing.”

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Thailand

Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chachoengsao join UNESCO’s learning cities

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chachoengsao join UNESCO’s learning cities | The Thaiger
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3 cities in Thailand recently joined UNESCO’s membership of so called “learning cities” which are said to promote “lifelong learning” and sustainable development. Chachoengsao, Chiang Mai and Phuket joined the UNESCO’s Global Network of Learning Cities. Altogether, 55 cities from 27 countries, adding up to 230 cities in 64 countries around the world, according to UNESCO.

“These cities are outstanding examples of how lifelong learning can become a reality at local level. They have proven that effective lifelong learning policies and practices can support the development of inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and contribute to the 2030 Agenda.”

The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning David Atchoarena says the recent new members have shown that they can make “lifelong learning a reality,” even after enduring the pandemic.

“With unprecedented urgency, the Covid-19-19 pandemic has underlined the necessity to build more resilient education systems for the future. With more than half of humanity living in urban areas, cities must be at the centre of this undertaking.”

David says he hopes it will inspire other cities in Thailand to follow.

“I very much hope that we will see many other cities from Thailand joining the network and working on providing lifelong learning opportunities for all to ensure a sustainable and peaceful future.”

The mayor of Chachoengsao, Kolayuth Chaisang, says his goal is to provide “effective education, thoroughly and equally to all citizens.” According to the Bangkok Post, the city is a key urban centre both economically and culturally.

The mayor of Chiang Mai, Tussanai Buranupakorn, says he wants to revitalise the city, while also maintaining the cultural significance. The city has a number of educational institutes, which goes along with UNESCO’s learning city principles.

Phuket is a hub of sustainable creativity, according to the Bangkok Post. The mayor of Phuket, Somjai Suwansupana, says he wants to preserve the city’s “identity, local wisdom assets and the charm of our multiculturalism.”

SOURCES: UNESCO |Bangkok Post

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