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Phuket

Thai banks slash interest rates for foreigners

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Thai banks slash interest rates for foreigners | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Thai banks here and across the country have quietly followed the legions of tuk-tuk drivers and street vendors who practice “two-tier” pricing – one for Thais and another for foreigners. In this case, the pricing relates to interest paid on savings accounts and fixed deposits. While the rates paid to foreigners vary from bank to bank, almost all are substantially lower than the rates paid to Thais. The sole exception to the two-tier interest policy in Phuket is Bank of Asia, now majority-owned by Dutch banking giant ABN-Amro. It currently pays 3.25% on savings, regardless of the nationality of the account holder. A spokesperson for the nation’s central bank, the Bank of Thailand (BOT), said that the institution had not issued any guidelines or directives relating to deposit interest paid to foreigners, and that it was up to the banks themselves to set their own interest rate policies. The only stipulations the BOT has made are that banks must keep their interest rates below a ceiling set each week by the central bank, and that they must post an up-to-date statement of all rates in their banking halls. In the six banks checked by Gazette reporters this afternoon, the notices were posted, but in Thai only. The Chairman of the Phuket Bankers Association, Chaiyos Chinda-Udomset, who is also vice-president of the Phuket Branch of Siam Commercial Bank, told the Gazette he was not sure why his head office in Bangkok was making a distinction between Thais and foreigners. He theorized that it might be because Thai banks are awash with baht and wanted to reduce their interest-bearing deposits. One way to do this, he said, would be to lower interest rates to unattractive levels. But when asked what percentage of the deposits in his bank are from foreigners, he agreed that it was minuscule. When asked why banks did not lower rates across the board, Khun Chaiyos said that Thais are accustomed to the idea of savings accounts, and that to lower rates too far might erode public confidence. The banks have not told their foreign depositors about the introduction of the policy. Some say they will pay the “Thai rate” to foreigners who can produce a work permit. But the offer is meaningless to most Phuket expatriates since they don’t even know that the rate on their deposits has been slashed. A Gazette online poll conducted earlier this week asked: “Did you know that Thai banks pay 3.5% on savings from Thais, and 0.5% to foreigners?” Among the 280 expatriate participants, 73% said “No”. Asked whether his bank had alerted foreign depositors to the new policy, Khun Chaiyos confirmed that it had not, and has no plans to do so. One foreigner approached outside of his bank said that he had had a “reluctant account” there for seven years and had “learned to live with surprises”. And the British Ambassador to Thailand, Sir James Hodge, in Phuket earlier this week, told the Gazette, “Any suggestion that foreigners should be treated differently…from Thais is something which we would not welcome, which we would encourage the authorities to change.”

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

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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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