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Uber gains legal traction in Phuket

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Uber gains legal traction in Phuket | The Thaiger

PHUKET: The Department of Land Transportation (DLT) came to terms with Uber this week, making it clear that the taxi-booking firm was legal, but that any promotion of illegal taxi drivers in Phuket or elsewhere in Thailand was banned.

“We are not banning the use of the Uber application, but we are banning the use of black-plate vehicles, because they are illegal,” Teerapong Rodpraert, director-general of DLT, told AFP.

“We have held talks with Uber twice… We must consider passenger safety because the taxi driver must have a public driving licence and a criminal records check with our department.”

After having finally dug out the deeply entrenched taxi mafia in Phuket with heavy military backing, officials are hesitant to provide any opportunities for illegal taxis to return to the streets.

“We understand that they are aiming to improve the quality and safety of taxi services in Phuket. However, many of the changes we have recently made to rid the island of ‘black plate’ [illegal] taxis have already done that [story here],” Phuket Land Transport Office (PLTO) Chief Terayout Prasertphol said earlier this month.

An Uber representative confirmed to the Phuket Gazette today that in Phuket, all the company’s UberBlack partners are “established, licensed, chauffer-driven limousine / rental companies that are registered and accredited by the government.”

“Uber respects the DLT and its important role as the key regulator on vehicle-for-hire transport in Thailand. We look forward to continued conversations with the DLT to bring our innovative transportation solutions within the appropriate regulatory framework in Thailand,” a separate statement from Uber read.

What seems to have drawn the DLT’s focus, however, is the promotion of peer-to-peer ride-sharing.

“Uber is working with governments around the world to promote safe, reliable and efficient transportation options supported by reasonable regulations that put consumer interest first. Already, 14 jurisdictions have embraced our peer-to-peer ride-sharing solution, UberX, by creating progressive and permanent regulatory frameworks for ride-sharing – a transportation alternative that didn’t even exist three years ago,” the statement read.

In December last year, a local expat asked the Gazette whether or not a similar concept – ride-sharing for visa runs – would be considered illegal.

“What you cannot do is make these trips a business from which you benefit. That is illegal,” said Manaporn Likitmanon, a Highways Police inspector. “The Land Transport Act BE 2522 prohibits drivers from using personal vehicles for business purposes. In order for someone to use a personal car for business purposes, it must be registered as a business vehicle.”

Phuket Immigration Police Superintendent Sunchai Chokkajaykij concurred with the inspector.

“It is not a problem to give a ride to other people and accept their money to share the cost of fuel. However, if you profit from driving others – for example, by receiving more than just the cost of the fuel – we consider it operating a business,” he said.

Though facing legal action in various countries, the company – which one year ago operated in 60 cities in 21 countries – now operates in 250 cities in 50 countries.

Uber is valued at US$40 billion after securing US$1.2bn from investors for the company to expand in Asia, according to Uber’s co-founder Travis Kalanick.

“Uber is transforming the way people move around their communities. Over the past few months, more and more Thai people have been cruising the streets of Bangkok and Phuket using the Uber platform, and they are loving the experience,” said the statement.

“We are a technology company and our smartphone application connects people who need a ride with a driver at the tap of a button. Our goal is simple – we want to keep Thailand moving forward in a way that increases safety and reduces congestion.”

With competition from similar services such as GrabTaxi, which saw Softbank invest US$250mn for its expansion in Southeast Asia, Uber is expected to see Thailand and much of Asia become its next battleground.

— Isaac Stone Simonelli

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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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