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Phuket paddling challenge: Birds ready to hit the water for ’round-the-island’ adventure

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket paddling challenge: Birds ready to hit the water for ’round-the-island’ adventure | The Thaiger

PHUKET: The countdown is on for the father-and-daughter team of Les and Victoria Bird whose epic quest to paddle more than 120 kilometers in a circumnavigation of Phuket starts this weekend.

In the early hours of February 12, Ironman athlete Les, 59, and seven-time triathlon champion Victoria,11, will set out from Yacht Haven marina on the island’s northeast coast. They won’t return for some time.

Paddling in scorching heat during the day and cloaked in darkness at night, the Birds will have to contend with boat traffic, exhaustion, unpredictable weather and tide changes to make it the whole way around.

But they are determined to finish what has been described as an “inspiration for Phuket”, and it could take them five days to finish.

Anil Thadani, CEO of Symphony Capital, has donated his 38-foot vessel Blowfish as safety boat.

Australian mariner Bill O’Leary will helm the boat, looking for potential dangers and pointing the Birds in the right direction.

“When I read in the Phuket Gazette about Victoria’s aim of raising awareness for charity, I wanted to help in some way. I admire people who take on tough new challenges. This young girl is an inspiration to us all,” said Mr Thadani.

The Birds will also be flanked by two veteran kayaking instructors on their trip: Ian Jones, who runs Exceptional Experiences, and Rob Ford, the Head of Primary at Victoria’s school, the British International School.

The Birds announced their ambitious plans in October. Since then, the local community has been quick to lend support and cash donations. They are raising funds for the 100 Friends international foundation and Phuket Sunshine Village.

So far, more than 32,000 baht has been raised and handed to charity representatives. Victoria is intent on raising much more.

First taking up kayaking 22 months ago in Phuket, Victoria completed a British Canoe Union (BCU) training course on the Isle of Wight in the English Channel in summer 2009.

Victoria’s paddling progress over the past few months has left dad Les and her instructors baffled.

“It’s amazing. She is a natural…she makes me look bad,” Les jokes.

The pair will be paddling in 14-foot solo Atlantis kayaks with drinks, food and their bunk-beds all aboard Blowfish.

Les said the paddle will be split into eight sections, a change from the original three.

On the first day, the Birds will set out from Yacht Haven and paddle about 30km to Nai Yang (2). Later that day, after Les has had his daily two-km swim for a “cool-down”, they will head for Bang Tao (3) and stay the night on Blowfish.

The following day they plan to make it all the way to Nai Harn (4) in the South. Les said they will have to stop halfway for a quick respite.

This will all be the easy part, says Les, who is more concerned with the unpredictable tidal patterns and speedboat traffic in Chalong Bay and off the coast of Phuket Town’s Rassada Pier.

Day three is going to be tough. Paddling from Nai Harn, the duo plan to make it to Friendship Beach (5), then Cape Panwa (6).

On day four, en route to Boat Lagoon (7), “We’ll stay away from the coastline to avoid the busy channel,” says Les.

The fifth day will see the pair shoot for their final destination, Yacht Haven. This is where Victoria’s classmates are expected to throw a welcome home party. All members of the Phuket community are welcome to attend.

Will the Birds reach their dream of paddling the whole way around the island? If there’s any father-and-daughter team who can, it’s them.

If you would like to bank on the Birds and donate to one of the charities mentioned in this story, then contact Les at T: 081-926 7103 or lesbird10gmail.com.

— Fraser Morton

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Bangkok

Bangkok luxury poised to push through the US$300 ceiling

Bill Barnett

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Bangkok luxury poised to push through the US$300 ceiling | The Thaiger

by Bill Barnett of c9hotelworks.com

PHOTOS: Rosewood Bangkok

For hotel owners and managers in South East Asia, one of the great mysteries of the past ten years has been the low rate profile of Bangkok’s luxury hotel set. Despite soaring and sustained tourism growth, rising airlift and a strong economy, rates at Bangkok’s top tier properties have remained fairly stagnant.

Have we reached the tipping point?

I had had the opportunity to visit the latest entry to the Bangkok luxury class a few days ago, the Rosewood. With 159 keys which includes a limited number of posh houses with private pools and terraces the property is seeing an exceptional response and already achieving high rates.

What’s impressive about the entry is a take on the design approach that sees hotel developers apply a non-uniform approach with AvroKO coming in to focus on the restaurants and bars, while the rooms and public areas were led by Celia Chu Design and Associates.

While the speakeasy Lennon’s has not be opened yet, the 6,000 record vinyl collection is impressive and the bar will clearly have a strong pull. Taking the approach to designing restaurants and not typical hotel outlets, the Chinese eatery Nan Bei is a breath of fresh air and limited seating provides a bespoke appeal.

Taking a step back, and looking at recent entries like the Waldorf Astoria, and upcoming 101 key Capella, what is clear is luxury properties are shifting in terms of key drivers of the segment of art, fashion, residential vibe, bar and restaurant offerings, wellness and events.

So, what about rates?

On a broad basis Bangkok’s top tier hotels have averaged rates of US$200-240 for the past few years. This set has seen longer serving properties such as the St. Regis, Kempinski, and Okura effectively flatline on rates, though newer entries have come up including the Park Hyatt. On the broader horizon is the return of the Four Seasons and Capella by the river and the Orient Express at the MahaNakhon skyscraper.

With the entry of Rosewood driving rates, my expectation is that a few of the set will follow and at the end of 2019 we will set limited number of hotels crash through the US$300 average room rate barrier and effectively smash the legacy glass ceiling of Bangkok’s luxury hotels.

As in any business there will be winners and losers. Smaller hotels with some rate leading premium key types will be able to push up average daily rates. Segmentation is another key and hotels on the river that lack substantial corporate numbers will remain challenged until transport links to the area improve.

Where in the world are Bangkok luxury hotels heading?

To sum up 2019, size and location matter, the shift on food and beverage and social events along with niches like wellness and  smaller meetings/weddings are the key to the future. As for the quantum leap in rates, it’s about time Bangkok hoteliers be confident and push rates towards a more global norm.

Bangkok luxury poised to push through the US$300 ceiling | News by The Thaiger

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Bangkok

Third runway for BKK Suvarnabhumi Airport

The Thaiger

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Third runway for BKK Suvarnabhumi Airport | The Thaiger

The Thai cabinet yesterday approved the construction of a third runway at Suvarnabhumi International Airport as part of the country’s ambition to become the aviation hub of ASEAN.

The 21.7 billion baht project will increase the combined capacity of Suvarnabhumi international airport’s runways to 94 arrivals and departures per hour from the current 64, said Lt-Gen Weerachon Sukonthapatipak, deputy government spokesman.

Suvarnabhumi Airport (aka. BKK) was opened in 2006 as Bangkok’s second airport. Initially it replaced the tired Don Mueang Airport but Don Mueang was later revamped as a low-coast airport to service the growing traffic demands.

Meanwhile Suvarnabhumi Airport was, and still is, operating above its designed capacity. An earlier bid to build a third terminal has been mired in controversy and is currently shelved pending a new brief from Airports of Thailand with a new round of design bids called for in the future.

Third runway for BKK Suvarnabhumi Airport | News by The Thaiger

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Thailand

Average hotel prices drop in Thailand in 2018

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Average hotel prices drop in Thailand in 2018 | The Thaiger

The latest Hotel Price Index (HPI) released by Hotels.com reveals no sign of a slowdown for the global travel industry. Prices are up for overnight accommodation by 3% globally in 2018 across every regional index, except for the Pacific region, including Thailand.

Hotel.com has 85 websites in 34 languages, and lists over 325,000 hotels in approximately 19,000 locations. Its inventory includes hotels and B&Bs, and some condos and other types of commercial lodging.

Travellers to and around Thailand paid an average price of 1,720 baht a night for their domestic accommodation last year, a 7% drop compared to 2017, and paid the same average price of 4,437 baht a night for international accommodation in both 2018 and 2017.

The growth in travel comes despite global uncertainties including Brexit, California wildfires, South African drought and Japanese earthquakes. Travellers also showed resilience and renewed confidence in destinations touched by unrest: Paris, Egypt, Turkey; regions experiencing currency fluctuation: South America; and areas affected by natural disaster: North America.

Despite the overall growth in global accommodation prices, average prices paid for domestic accommodation in Thailand have decreased, with average prices for international beds remaining stable.

SOURCE: The Nation | Hotel.com

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