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On Deck: Dive ban to impact yachting

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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On Deck: Dive ban to impact yachting | The Thaiger

PHUKET: “Move to regulate diving industry” was a recent headline and front page story in the Phuket Gazette. At first glance I thought; ‘fair enough’, until I read further.

Following a spate of deaths and accidents, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports (MOTS) Phuket Office, headed by Santi Pawai, has taken it upon themselves to improve safety in the dive industry.

Improving safety is a good thing, but the upshot of this is to ban private diving. “It doesn’t matter how qualified you are or if you’re diving with a buddy; it’s necessary for your diving excursion to be linked to a recognized dive business,” said Mr Santi.

Yet again this is knee-jerk reaction from local officialdom is a hasty response with little or no thought and planning.

While there are injuries and deaths in diving, there are plenty more injuries and incidents (and deaths) from snorkeling, jet skiing, and even more when simply driving on Phuket’s roads. Roads, jet skis, and snorkeling, however, are not under the remit of Mr Santi, so let’s not go there. Diving, apparently, now is.

Banning private diving is unlikely to fix anything. The MOTS is assuming that all the injuries and deaths come from private diving, which they don’t. I would go as far as to say that private diving accounts for far less than half.

Perhaps paying attention to snorkeling trips, tour guides, and speedboat drivers and their safety competency would improve the safety in Phuket’s waters. In my opinion, resources spent on these issues would be spent wisely, whereas a blanket ban on private diving will have negligible effect on safety.

Where a private ban is likely to have a significant effect is the yacht charter industry.

Firstly, how can you realistically enforce this private diving ban? The MOTS in Phuket has a hard enough time controlling illegal Chinese guides, which I can find at any 7-11 on this island any evening of the week.

Back to yacht charter: if you missed it, the Royal Thai Government has been shouting a lot about a new 12-month superyacht charter license they have introduced, with the aim of attracting yachts over 30 meters to spend more time in Thailand, and charter their yachts while they are here. Good idea, good revenue for the industry and economy, but what if a charter guest wants to dive off the yacht? Or what if the owner flies in and wants to dive off his own superyacht?

Assuming the MOTS enforces its blanket private diving ban, then individuals on any yacht (owners or charter guests) simply cannot dive. Unless of course they go with an official diving company, which they are unlikely to do.

What’s next? Following the tragic death of a Russian crewman on a superyacht off the Similan Island recently, can we expect another knee-jerk reaction to safety? Let’s hope not.

Looking at the marine big picture, there is clearly a need to bring relevant stakeholders together. Jet Skis, speedboats, tour boats, yachts and yacht charters are the remit of the Phuket Marine Office. Diving, previously self-regulated and following the international PADI system on the whole, is now being claimed by the MOTS in Phuket. Perhaps a single authority for everything marine would make more sense?

Rather than making rash announcements and public statements, which as history has proven time and time again results in little action, how about officialdom consulting with the industry stakeholders.

There seems to be apathy by public officials towards the private sector yet the knowledge and experience in the private sector far outweighs that in the public sector, and if a more open-minded and inclusive approach to safety discussions and industry development can happen, I’m sure the improvements will be clear for everyone to see.

Thailand Marine Business Association anyone?

Duncan Worthington is a long time Phuket resident and through Infinity Communications (www.infinity-comms.com) consults to leading consumer brands, hospitality and marine clients in Thailand. In his ‘spare time’ he runs the marine portal www.MarineScene.asia. #OnDeckPhuket

— Duncan Worthington

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Bangkok

Top Five things to consider if you’re buying a condo in Thailand

Tanutam Thawan

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Top Five things to consider if you’re buying a condo in Thailand | The Thaiger

Not quite a Top Ten but some good straight-talking about buying condominiums in Thailand from Desmond Hughes from Hughes Krupica

One of the most commonly read or spoken summary of foreign ownership of property in Thailand is along the lines of

“Foreigners can buy a foreign freehold condominium in their name”.

At this sentence, many foreign investors switch off, and assume that the rest of the detail provided by the author may be legal mumbo jumbo or a thinly veiled attempt to win their business.

In fact, there is quite a lot you should know about Thai condominiums, before you start property hunting. As my clients don’t generally spend their time reading legal journals and legislation unless they have to, I have set out a mixture of legal and practical matters below without much distinction:

1. Only 49% of the Registrable Area of a condominium can be sold to foreigners.

In Bangkok, this is not likely to have any impact on you. Most of the buyers and owners of condominiums in Bangkok are Thai nationals. Even in condominiums popular with foreigners, it is an uncommon phenomena that foreigners would ever outnumber Thais as owners in a building. You might ask why the rule even exists, but there is a fear and protectionism in many Asian countries, not just Thailand, to try and keep foreigners ‘controlled’ through numbers and perecentages.

In other places – Phuket; Pattaya; Koh Samui; Chiang Mai and Hua Hin particularly you should apply caution to ensuring that the correct ‘quota’ of foreign units is available to be sold to you on a freehold basis.

2. Banks often advertise they will give finance, even potentially to foreigners, but in the end – don’t

I speak from personal experience and from that of my clients. For my first condo investment in Bangkok, I had to take out a loan with HSBC which was then taken over by a Thai bank. My loan had to be in foreign currency, because in order to buy a foreign freehold condominium – you have to send foreign currency into Thailand from overseas to generate ‘foreign exchange transaction forms’ to register the title to a foreigner at the land office. This means a lot of hoops for a bank to jump through simply to provide a mortgage. Foreigners are also viewed as flight risks by Thai banks and they do not wish to spend their time chasing foreign assets. This all means that a very high percentage of the foreign buyer market is cash based, which is good for the stability of that part of the condo market.

If you are tempted to try and take out finance applications to banks, be aware that the banks are looking for you to have some business in Thailand; perhaps to be married to a Thai national who preferable from the bank’s perspective will have some degree of wealth for self-support; and that you have other assets in Thailand with a history of using and paying off credit such as credit cards.

3. There is an oversupply of condominiums in Bangkok at the moment and rental yields are traditionally low in terms of % compared to more expensive Asian neighbors – Hong Kong and Singapore, and further afield

A condo in a prime rentable area at a high investment price can remain rentable due to its extremely useful location and amenities. If such condo has a 24 hour supermarket in the basement of the retail area and dozens of restaurants, as a condo building I am thinking of does have such amenities, then it will remain rentable for some time if the property is maintained. However, another condo at the end of the same ‘Soi’ and post building and delivery could remain unrented after many months and even if the rent is cut to 50% of the market price. Don’t just take my word for the state of the market for condo rentals in Bangkok, ask the agents.

In addition to this, the authorities are taking a closer eye at tax declarations and ‘cracking down’ on undeclared taxes – not just personal income tax, but the ‘business tax’ of 12.5% for renting units out. This all adds to the costs of investing and renting in a condo, and you must calculate this into your budget and forecasts to avoid living in fantasy land about dream returns.

3. You won’t have any say in how the condominium is managed

Unless you buy up over half of the voting rights attached to units in the entire building, you will be a minority voice on issues like the raising of the common area fees; use of the ‘sinking fund’ – the fund to make capital repairs, changes to the rules and regulations and general maintenance decisions, even of some significance. Don’t imagine standing up at an co-owners meeting voicing your opinions and somehow making headway in ‘changing’ the direction of the management of a building. The way in which a building is managed boils down to how the developer has structured ownership, whether the developer retains many units and a large % of the voting rights or not, and whether the developer plans to self-manage or outsource management of the asset to a reputable or not-so-reputable management company.

If you don’t check the management plan then I can reference lots of analogous situations where you would take more care – if you buy a car, you should think if there are any decent repair centres nearby and at a reasonable price – Ferraris in Phuket aren’t currently easy to maintain, I would imagine, as a non-Ferrari owner and observer of the state and condition of the roads in that Province. You also wouldn’t, I hope, buy a smart phone without knowing you could have the phone service, fixed and various parts replaced on reasonably short notice. As a property is a far higher value of investment, a lot of investigation into the management plan is necessary.

4. Don’t Believe the Hype – It’s a Sequel

False Media, we don’t need it do we? If you see a glossy marketing brochure and are told that the developer ‘has to deliver on its promises by law’ – be wary. To take one example, I bought a condo under which a ‘private wine cellar area with personal secure wine bottle storage space’ would be provided to every buyer. Amazingly, without any shame at all, the famous developer constructed an unchilled cheap wooden cabinet with glass doors, no locks next to 4 sofa chairs in the open space corridor between a swimming pool and the gym. If you wanted to fry an egg on the ‘wine cabinet’ then that was highly likely to have been possible.

These kind of things are not all ‘horror stories’ – I actually got a decent condo notwithstanding the missing items. However, you will often have to compromise when in more highly regulated and supervised jurisdictions, you would not. Compromise is a very common work in Thai society and it applies to business and consumer purchases too.

5. Set up your ownership for easy re-sale

If you are buying a condo as a ‘foreigner’ and paying cash, then you can buy your condo through a foreign company, and sell the company later. This is only worth doing if the cost of setting up and maintaining the foreign company is reasonable and the company you set up is ‘saleable’ and attractive to others. You should not carry out this kind of structuring to ‘avoid tax’. However, you can set up this kind of structure, pay tax on the purchase, and subsequently deal with your company as you see fit, provided a buyer is willing to buy it. If such a company receives rental income, then even if it is foreign it is till liable to taxes as the use of the ‘immoveable property’ for generating revenue isn’t deemed to be ‘outside’ of Thailand, and that applies even if the company tries to contract for and receive the rent outside of Thailand.

Desmond Hughes has operated and owned 2 law firms in Asia in 14 years spanning Thailand; Vietnam; Indonesia with clients in all of Asia and other markets investing inwards into the region with his existing firm Hughes Krupica possessing a large market shares in its fields of expertise. 

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Travel

Fly on the ‘Honu’, snazzy new Airbus jumbo design

Tanutam Thawan

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Fly on the ‘Honu’, snazzy new Airbus jumbo design | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Airbus Industrie

Japanese airline All Nippon Airways has just taken delivery of the first of three ‘sea turtle’ editions of the superjumbo A380 aircraft.

In May, the airline will add the “Flying Honu” to its fleet. The first of the new super jumbo double-decker jets is painted bright sky-blue and displaying a sea turtle design as a ‘honu’. Honu is the term used for sea turtles in Hawaii, this airplane’s destination.

The smart new A380 will serve the route from Tokyo to Honolulu. Later in the year it’ll be joined by an emerald green and orange turtle version of the planes.

The introduction of this aircraft is the first time that first class will be available on ANA’s Honolulu route, along with Business, Premium Economy and Economy.

The ANA versions of the A380 will carry 520 passengers.

With the arrival of ‘Honu’, ANA becomes the 15th airline to operate the A380, loved for not only being big, but also quiet and extra smooth.

Fly on the 'Honu', snazzy new Airbus jumbo design | News by The Thaiger Fly on the 'Honu', snazzy new Airbus jumbo design | News by The Thaiger

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Travel

Welcome to Yonder Tours. Plan your next trip here.

Tanutam Thawan

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Welcome to Yonder Tours. Plan your next trip here. | The Thaiger

Where do you want to go? Where is your next trip or tour? How many days? What’s your budget?

Check out all your options and more than 38,000 different tried and tested tours at the new Yonder Tours. Anywhere in the world, any length, many, many options from reputable tour operators.

Yonder Tours is the latest initiative from DB Ventures, South East Asia’s foremost start up studio. The group already has FazWaz, MyMediTravel, The Thaiger and JobCute in its list of start up leaders and is working with other south east asian start ups to develop their ideas into scalable businesses.

Yonder Tours allows you to simply search for a tour anywhere in the world, check all the details and pricing and then go forward to a complete booking and confirmation with the tour operator.

At the stage the site has a concentration of tours in Thailand and around south east Asia but amongst the 38,000 tours you can book anything from a day trip to a month-long holiday at any price point, all from your laptop or smartphone, anywhere in the world.

Where do you want to travel next in the wide blue yonder?

Welcome to Yonder Tours. Plan your next trip here. | News by The Thaiger

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