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Lumbini Airport aim to bring Buddhist Thais to Nepal

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Lumbini, The Birth Place Of Gautam Buddha

Nepal is hoping to attract Buddhist pilgrims from Thailand to the birthplace of Lord Buddha with the opening of the Lumbini Airport scheduled later this year. The area is an important Buddhist site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nepalese officials hope to attract Buddhist Thai travellers on sacred pilgrimage trips.

The Nepal Tourism Board recently met with the Royal Thai Embassy Kathmandu for discussions on how to grow tourism after the Covid-19 pandemic finally subsides. The meeting took place in Kathmandu with the chief executive of the tourism board reaching out to Thai officials on ways to create cooperation and increase travel between the two countries. The tourism board is focusing on holiday packages to Nepal for the Thai market aimed at not just Buddhist pilgrims but also trekkers, hikers, mountain climbers and other outdoor activity enthusiasts.

Tourism accounts for about 3% of Nepal’s gross domestic product since the country opened its borders to foreign travellers in 1951. Before Covid-19 took hold of the world, about half of the 70,000 travellers from Thailand to Nepal were Buddhist pilgrims while the other half were outdoor adventure tourists. About 25,000 of those travellers visited the time monasteries in Lumbini in 2019.

The Thai government and Nepalese government plan to work in tandem on marketing plans aimed at people who love the mountainous scenery and Buddhist pilgrims alike. They hope to strengthen ties between Nepal and Thailand and work closely with the tourism authority of Thailand to help bring awareness and run promotional programs directly in Thailand.

The chief executive of the NTB conveyed a thankfulness to Thailand for building Buddhist monasteries which inspire Thai pilgrims to visit Nepal. The ambassador to Thailand also suggested promoting new tourism activities like scenic helicopter journeys to Namche and visits to less famous Nepalese natural sites and attractions like Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Chandragiri, Chitwan, and Gokyo Lake.

The new international airport, scheduled to open soon in Lumbini, will allow much easier travel, with direct flights from Thailand to Nepal. It is set to open within the next 6 months with the hopes of international flight routes scheduled from Thailand and around Asia.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

 

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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10 years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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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Thailand

Chiang Mai on track to reopen 2 districts to foreign tourists in October

Tanutam Thawan

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Photo via Pexels

Chiang Mai is still on track to reopen to foreign tourists under the sandbox model this October. The so-called sandbox model would allow foreign tourists, who are vaccinated against Covid-19, to travel to designated areas in Thailand without undergoing quarantine. In Chiang Mai, tourists will be able to travel in the area with tour guides on designated routes. Phuket is set to reopen under the scheme on July 1.

In Chiang Mai, the districts Mae Rim and Mae Taeng are planned for the sandbox model. President of the Tourism Council of Chiang Mai, Punlop Saejew, says those areas have a low population density and around 400,000 vaccine doses are needed for residents in both districts.

With Phuket set to reopen in July, tourism operators expect other tourist destinations in Thailand will benefit from the potential influx of foreign visitors.

“The Phuket sandbox model will create opportunities for other provinces… However, we have to prepare for our reopening regardless of what happens with Phuket because the country cannot afford another lost year.”

Health officials have said there are a limited amount of vaccine doses with priority given to those in high risk areas. Both Chaing Mai’s public and private sectors are planning to procure more doses, just in case, the government cannot provide the vaccines in line with the reopening schedule.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Tourism

Thai hotels call for extension to domestic travel stimulus packages

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: Flickr / Marike de Meij

The Thai Hotels Association is urging the government to extend the domestic travel stimulus schemes, set to end on September 30. THA president, Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, says the stimulus packages, “We Travel Together”, which subsidises flights and hotel accommodation, and the Tour Teaw Thai co-payment scheme, must be continued until the current Covid-19 crisis is under control.

She points out that despite no national lockdown, Thais are reluctant to travel, which is having a devastating impact on the hotel industry. A recent survey found that nearly half of Thai hotels only have enough liquidity to keep going for 3 months or less. Marisa says it’s vital the government’s tourism stimulus schemes are extended to the end of 2021 and beyond.

“Thailand needs a longer time to contain the spread of the virus because the infection rate of this variant runs faster than the previous 2 rounds, not to mention the higher level of fear among the public. This time will be different and more challenging for the tourism sector as people voluntarily stay home despite no rigid lockdown orders from the government.”

The Bangkok Post reports that a number of Thai hotels are taking part in a scheme which enables them to access soft loans and debt restructuring, but Marisa warns that this will not be enough to help them meet their costs.

“The official order from the government to close hotels in risk areas during the first outbreak prompted the Social Security Fund to compensate 62% of salary to employees for 3 months last year. Even though there is no such enforcement this year, the impact of travel restrictions and the ban on many activities produce the same bitter result.”

She adds that while the THA and the Thai Chamber of Commerce have proposed a monthly salary co-payment plan, there has been no response from the government.

“From the current situation, the only solution for employees to get financial aid from the SSF is to be unemployed first, but hotels don’t want to lay off staff because skilled workers in the hospitality sector will be difficult to find when we want them back.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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