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Up in the air: THAI not banned from European airspace

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Up in the air: THAI not banned from European airspace | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: After a slew of bad news for Thai commercial aviation abroad, the industry finally got a much needed piece of good news with the December 10 announcement by the European Commission (EC) that no Thai airlines were included on the updated Air Safety List drawn up by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Some industry analysts had mistakenly feared that EASA might follow in the footsteps of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which early this month downgraded Thailand to a Category 2 rating, citing the failure of its now-defunct Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) to comply with international aviation standards, as mandated by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The DCA has since been replaced by a new agency known as the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT), which will oversee a much needed overhaul of aviation safety standards in Thailand, to ensure compliance with ICAO standards.

The ICAO red-flagged Thailand in June after the results of an audit conducted earlier in the year were announced. Several countries, including Japan, South Korea and China imposed new restrictions on Thai carriers operating in their air space, not allowing them to add new flights or change schedules on existing routes until improvements are made and recognized by ICAO.

While the FAA ban is a major blow to Thailand’s safety reputation abroad, it comes with no direct effect on any Thai carriers since none currently operate flights to North America. It came as a surprise to some when THAI dropped its service to Los Angeles in late October, given that the city’s unofficial nickname is ‘the 78th Thai province’ because it is home to some 80,000 of the estimated 120,000 Thais who call California home.

As for EASA, most of the fear and trepidation regarding an across-the-board downgrade turned out to be misplaced, because the EASA report only deals with whether or not to allow THAI and jet charter firm MJets – the only two Thai carriers currently operating to Europe – to continue service over European airspace.

Much of the confusion stemmed from the fact that EASA does not function in the same way as the FAA. It does not typically audit civil aviation in other countries, leaving that task to ICAO. Rather, it looks into safety aspects of operations of individual carriers using their airspace. So the good news is that neither THAI nor MJets were included in the list and they will be allowed to continue flying to Europe.

A press release issued by the EC on the topic addressed Thai concerns directly.

No air carriers from Thailand were added to the Air Safety List at this time. The EC and EASA are willing to continue to work with authorities to enhance aviation safety in the country. The EC and EASA will, however, closely monitor future developments, and if the protection of air passengers against safety risks so requires, the EC could then propose inclusion of one or more air carriers from Thailand in the Air Safety List.

— Stephen Fein

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

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

CCSA mulls the easing of Covid-19 restrictions

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CCSA mulls the easing of Covid-19 restrictions | The Thaiger

Late night diners rejoice. Your option to eat all that great Thai food around the country looks to be back on the table as the government looks to lift some of the current restrictions on dining and business operating hours. Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has announced that they’re likely to lift restrictions on dining, currently set at 9pm, by the end of this week.

The Thai Restaurant Association have been lobbying hard for an extension of the opening times for in-restaurant dining times to at least 11pm.

The CCSA will gather on Friday to assess the current Covid-19 situation and decide if the extension is viable at this time. But the Public Health Minister maintained that alcohol will still be prohibited and other precautions like hand-sanitisers at entry points and social distancing will still need to be strictly applied.

Speaking to Bangkok Post, Anutin said the alcohol ban must remain in place for now.

“If violations of the alcoholic beverage-drinking ban are found at any restaurants, they can’t simply get away with claiming that it was their customers who brought the alcohol to drink at the restaurants because the ban applies to ‘alcohol drinking’ at restaurants in particular, not only alcohol selling or serving.”

Meanwhile, PM Prayut Chan-o-cha says the easing of various restrictions around the country will be looked at on a case-by-case basis depending on the outbreak situation in each area. The early clusters in the four eastern coastal provinces of Chanthaburi, Chon Buri, Rayong and Trat, for example, appears to have eased and the local governors are pleading with the government for some relief from the strict restrictions on their provinces. Chon Buri has had a run of days over the past week where there has been no new Covid infections reported to the CCSA.

Yesterday there was a surge of new cases uncovered by a strategic track and trace program in Samut Sakhon, but the government says it will base its decision to ease restrictions around the county on the overall outbreak situation province by province. Provincial governors have also been given powers to add or modify national restrictions, a different situation from the April and May 2020 ‘lockdowns’ which were much more restrictive.

959 new Covid-19 infections were announced yesterday, 844 of them were found through the track and trace operations in Samut Sakhon, the ground zero for Thailand’s latest outbreak which kicked off 5 weeks ago and has now spread to most provinces.

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Business

The ‘office’ is SO last century. Say hello to the world of remote working.

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The ‘office’ is SO last century. Say hello to the world of remote working. | The Thaiger

Do you work from home? Or can you work anywhere have a laptop and wi-fi? Are you a trader or selling stuff online? You’re part of a growing trend in modern work practices as the fancy city office becomes an expensive relic of the ‘old normal’.

2020 became the year of people working from home. In same case, it was the year of being told to stay home so there wasn’t much option. During Thailand’s lockdowns in April and May, offices were closed and employers had to scramble to find alternatives to the “office”. With the rise of Zoom and other video conferencing software, ways of tracking time-on-keyboard and hundreds of other monitoring apps, employers suddenly discovered they could actually run their businesses without an office. There were certainly new dynamics and unforeseen challenges, but for the most part, it worked.

Companies had worked from central office locations for a hundred years. The remote/work-from-home option was a new test for everyone involved but many early wrinkles have been ironed out after an accelerated learning curve due to the Covid-19 situation.

In the early days, most companies weren’t ready to close up the office and send their workers home claiming that some basic operations such as accounting and invoicing were not yet able to be done online (Thailand has a love of hard-copies and paperwork).

Team meetings were also more clumsy online. There were even companies that told their staff to keep coming in to the office as there was no legal barrier preventing them from doing so. But many smaller and less digitally-savvy firms required workers to come in and risk contracting the virus.

In the US, the Bureau of Labour Statistics found only 29% of jobs in the US could be completed from home, while in Thailand (a far less digitised and service-based economy) the percentage was probably lower.

But larger Thai firms, such as Unilever and True Digital allowed nearly 100% of their white-collar employees to work from home early during the lockdown phase. Other companies adapted quickly and found that working remotely, or from home, allowed their businesses additional flexibility. Many workers also say they enjoyed the lack of office interruptions too.

While Unilever was unable to send its factory workforce home, it was able to shift all sales and executive personnel fully online to avoid possible Covid exposure finding hitherto unknown improvements in the firm’s e-commerce presence.

Thai startups such as Eko (“your complete employee experience platform”) was able to capitalise on the rise of work-from-home with its “work anywhere” employee application. Eko experienced 200% year-on-year sales growth in the first half of 2020 as companies looked for solutions to connect employees from home.

Teleconferencing juggernaut Zoom was trading shares at US$88 at the start of 2020, to rise to $568 by mid-October, only to trail off to $337 by the end of the year – the fickle nature of a fast-rising tech start-up.

Employees, generally, prefer the shift to working from home and the flexible hours. It doesn’t suit all businesses or all employees, but it suits many. A study by by recruitment specialists Robert Walters Thailand found 75% of workers want opportunities to work-from-home and only 25% want a return to full-time work at the office.

Last month the police and the Bangkok Metropolitan Organisation police urged businesses to allow employees to work from home at least once a week to cut down on traffic-induced pollution.

The Covid-19 pandemic also forced countries to rethink their supply chains and reliance on foreign goods. China, for example, responded to the outbreak by shutting down factories, some of which other countries relied on for medical equipment needed to fight the virus, and vital components needed for manufacturing of goods in China and other countries.

Whilst there was an initial push-back on China, the international supply chain has become so entwined with Chinese businesses and manufacturers, and China with other countries, that it would take decades to unwind.

One of the biggest winners this year has been the rise of the delivery services. Grab Bike, Food Panda, We Serve and Line Bike are the best known but there are start ups making inroads into the growing delivery space as well as many smaller and larger businesses that have their own deliveries.

These businesses have been able to thrive on the ‘new normal’ stay-at-home culture. Eat at home, work at home, shop from home, watch movies at home – the trend is growing as people realise that they can get almost everything delivered, timely, efficiently and at little additional cost, usually free.

The big test will be once the Covid situation settles down, whatever that means and whenever it happens, and companies look back at the successes and failures of their employees working from home. But there’s no doubt the pandemic and the imposed restrictions ave accelerated the need to develop new ways of allowing employees to work safely, remotely or from home.

The successful transition of some office work to work-at-home will also put continued pressure on the commercial real estate market. Many employers are looking at their monthly office rental outgoings and starting to measure the return on their investment.

The rise of the work-at-home phenomenon and the digital nomad will be the main trends for office work in 2021.

This article was written laying on a couch, at home, at 6.15am in the morning… because we can.

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Business

Future of Thai department stores is being redefined

The Thaiger

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Future of Thai department stores is being redefined | The Thaiger

While department stores have been a familiar destination for Thai people for many decades, CBRE, an international property consultant, is witnessing a decline in popularity and stunted growth, particularly in 2020 when Covid-19 adversely impacted the sector. CBRE believes that to adapt to e-commerce disruption and the changing consumer behaviour, department stores in 2021 (and beyond) will have to fine-tune their business model in terms of customer shopping experience, inventive activities and value-added programmes to continue their status as the second home for Thai shoppers.

Jariya Thumtrongkitkul, Head of Advisory and Transaction Services – Retail, CBRE Thailand explained… “While department stores offer shoppers convenience, saving them time with many varieties of goods grouped in different departments and allowing the shoppers to find and compare products and choose what they want, the traditional department store model does not fit the needs, lifestyle and behaviour of its shoppers anymore, especially the new generations.”

According to CBRE Research, the total retail supply in Bangkok as of Q4 2020 increased to 7.8 million square metres, a 1.16% increase year-on-year. Out of this, only approximately 3% was reported within the department store format. The department store market in Thailand is mainly dominated by two domestic retail giants, with Central Group and The Mall Group holding the largest market shares. They do not only concentrate in Bangkok, but have also opened department stores in many major cities throughout the country which allowed them to build bigger networks and grow their customer base.

In the past few decades, Japanese investors had also shown interest in entering the Thai market and offered local features that are well-known in Japanese department stores: simplicity, premium quality and services. However, with strong competition many Japanese department store operators have ceased their expansion plans. Some have exited the country due to the fierce competition against the local players, their performance in Thailand and the shrinking Japanese department store business, especially in overseas countries.

“The department store concept as a one stop shopping place is still in demand for certain groups of customers. However, with the e-commerce disruption and changing consumer behaviour, department store operators need to adapt their models, offerings and value-added services to their customers to cope with the challenging economic and market conditions.”

Adaptability of department stores can be highlighted into 3 main parts: customer shopping experience, inventive sales and marketing activities, and value-added programmes. While more and more younger generations prefer to shop online to save time and money, the brick-and-mortar store is still believed to be the second home for Thai shoppers. Department stores should be more agile in the era of e-commerce and adopt some technological innovations such as in-store automation and mobile payment solutions to reach the younger crowds.

Design is another aspect that plays an important part in customer shopping experience. Department stores can be more creative in remodelling traditional department store space into some ingenious and interactive space with a great design and right product portfolio mix for their customers.

The Mall Group, for example, has launched its first “Lifestore” concept at The Mall Ngamwongwan at the end of 2020 by redesigning and renovating its traditional department store space to enhance customer shopping experience and enjoyment.

The second part to be considered for the adaptability comprises inventive activities related to sales and marketing. The prices of products being sold in a department store are normally set high to cover the higher establishment and operating costs by operators, narrowing their target to only upper- to high-income customers.

Brand offerings may also no longer meet fast-changing customer needs since today’s shoppers have more choices in buying products online, not to mention the declining footfall due to the growth of e-commerce. CBRE Research has seen domestic players pushing hard to drive sales growth via numerous promotions, marketing campaigns and activities and collaboration with credit card companies during seasonal sales.

The third part consists of value-added programmes such as personal shopper, customer loyalty programme, on-demand solution and service personalisation, which have become a new trend as customers, including the aging population, are now more sophisticated and demanding.

The retail landscape has changed drastically in the past few years from various factors like technological advancement, consumer behaviour and preference as well as Covid-19. Cookie-cutter strategy will be a thing of the past, especially for department stores where the format and offerings have remained the same for decades.

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