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Tour operators boycott visits to Similan and Surin islands to protest new restrictions

The Thaiger

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Tour operators boycott visits to Similan and Surin islands to protest new restrictions | The Thaiger
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The tour operators have had enough of the winding back of tour boat operations and are now resorting to boycotting and ‘disrupting’ the tours in order to get their protests heard.

About 50 tour operators in Phuket and Phang nga say they’re suspending boat trips to Similan-Surin islands in the Andaman sea (off the coast of Phang-Nga) today and tomorrow to protest against the decision of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants Conservation to limit the number of visitors to the islands to 3,850 a day. The number also includes 525 scuba divers.

Thai PBS reports that the limitation of visitors comes into force today after the two main islands re-opened to tourists after several months of closure during the monsoon season.

Besides the limitation of visitors, overnight stay-overs are not permitted.

Tour operators met yesterday in Ban Tap Lamu in Thai Muang district of Phang nga to discuss the new restrictions which they say they oppose.

They say their objections are because the restrictions would affect their business and that they’ve already accepted advance bookings to tour the islands before the department issued its new restrictions.

They say they will take their tourists to other tourist attractions Monday and Tuesday this week while awaiting response from the department.

Tour operators have been notified of the reopening of the two islands for visitors and the restrictions and to get themselves prepared with their vessels being properly checked to ensure their sea worthiness and equipped with enough life vests for their passengers.

The PM’s Office Minister Kobsak Putrakul, who was in Phang nga over the weekend, received the tour operators’ complaint and promised to bring it to the attention of the department chief.

SOURCE: Thai PBS

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Tourism

How Thailand’s domestic tourism market fell in love with Khao Lak during a pandemic

Bill Barnett

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How Thailand’s domestic tourism market fell in love with Khao Lak during a pandemic | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Robinson Club Khao Lak

While Thailand’s doors remain mostly shut to international tourists, Thailand’s domestic travel wanderlust has turned Khao Lak into an Instagram hero. In the first 2 months of this year, according to research by consulting group C9 Hotelworks’ new Khao Lak Hotel Market Update occupancies soared above 80%.

With the Covid-19 lockdowns, occupancy plunged in April and May, but as domestic travel re-started mid-year on the back of government-initiated ‘We Travel Together ‘incentive, the destination has slowly but surely gained traction from both fly and drive-in Thai markets.

Khao Lak’s surf scene has become a national social-media sensation with Pakarang Beach and Memories Beach Bar the epicentre of a photo tourism movement – bolstered further by Instagram favorite hotels, Michelin Guide Southern-Thai restaurants, and the rediscovery of Takua Pa Old Town.

Over the past five years, the expansive white sand oceanfront strip of destination hotels in Khao Lak has continued a march North towards Takua Pa. Fueling much of this development is larger greenfield land parcels and a nearly completed four-lane highway expansion from the gateway airport in Phuket. C9’s report indicates a hotel supply of 114 registered tourism establishments with 9,542 rooms and a further 2,283 keys in the pipeline.

With 73% of incoming supply being chain-operated, the influx of global brands includes Pullman, Marriott, Sheraton, AVANI, and Holiday Inn.

How Thailand’s domestic tourism market fell in love with Khao Lak during a pandemic | News by The Thaiger

Despite Thailand’s tourism downturn, some hotel owners are taking the opportunity to complete projects and launch their properties in the marketplace. One example is Kamontip Phunratanamala, Managing Director of Khao Lak Inter Co. and co-owner of the new 253-key Pullman Khao Lak Resort which will soft-open on December 1, who says “owning a hotel is a long-term proposition, you have to take a long-term view of the destinations’ tourism potential and take the bad times with the good times.”

How Thailand’s domestic tourism market fell in love with Khao Lak during a pandemic | News by The Thaiger

Talking about the evolving geographic changes in Khao Lak’s hotel scene, while the panoramic pristine seaboard continues to stretch upwards into an emerging tourism Gold Coast, there is an increasingly grassroots ‘sense of place’ movement afoot. Take the Pullman’s commissioning of noted Thai sculptor Jatuporn (Yui) Wongtong also the co-founder of Artslonga. Her signature ‘Tree of Life”’ sculpture that is installed in the arrival area is heavily influenced by the culture of Takua Pa and speaks of nature and indigenous materials.

Looking beyond the end of surf season which runs from just the after Songkran holiday period (April) through November, local hotels are pinning hopes that the government domestic travel incentive which is due to expire at the end of January will be extended to at least mid-2021 or until international tourists are allowed to come back to the country in larger numbers. Adding to that, the continued influx of social media bloggers and influencers heading South is already creating a ripple effect in demand, most notably with the Similan and Surin islands as day trips from Khao Lak. It may not be a typical high-season but for now, the domestic tourists are a welcome sight for stressed hoteliers and tourism businesses.

To read and download the full report click HERE.

(Khao Lak is in the province of Phang Nga, a 2 hour drive north from the Phuket International Airport)

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Phang Nga

5 injured after engine explodes on Phang Nga speedboat

The Thaiger

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5 injured after engine explodes on Phang Nga speedboat | The Thaiger

5 people have been injured, 3 seriously, after a moored speedboat caught fire in Phang Nga province yesterday. The incident happened around 8.30am. The boat was tied up to the Thap Lamu boat pier, where most Similan Island-bound private tour boats depart from and return to. The injured were all crew from the boat.

According to witnesses, the captain started the boat’s engines and sparks started spitting out for the engine casing, followed by an explosion. 5 crewmen were injured, 3 of them seriously, including the boat’s skipper. They were rushed to Vachira Phuket Hospital, about a 90 minute drive away, and the other 2 with minor injuries were sent to the Khao Lak medical centre, just 8 kilometres away. There were no tourists on the speed boat at the time of the incident.

A Navy boat dragged the burning vessel away from the pier into the middle of the channel to prevent the fire from spreading to other boats moored at the pier.

The commander of the 2nd Naval Area, sent the HTMS Panyi to the scene to try and put out the fire, secure the area and tow the burning boat away.

The harbour’s entrance is small and an isthmus of land offers protection to boats from the Andaman Sea’s wind and waves. Many speed boats are usually moored in the harbour servicing the popular dive trips out to The Similan Islands. Local fishing boats also use the harbour.

SOURCE: Chiang Rai Times

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Tourism

Similan Islands to reopen on October 15 with ‘new normal’ policy

Caitlin Ashworth

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Similan Islands to reopen on October 15 with ‘new normal’ policy | The Thaiger
FILE PHOTO

After being closed for the season, the Similan Islands National Park is opening back up on October 15, but this time with a “new normal” policy like social distancing, temperature checks and requiring staff and visitors to wear face masks. The national park in the Phang Nga province closes every year from mid-May to mid-October due to unsafe weather conditions.

The province’s deputy governor Boonterm Ranumas says he expects the park’s opening bring in domestic tourists, boosting revenues for vendors and tourism operators in the area.

The islands have a limit on the number of visitors to prevent ongoing environmental damage. Since the island is just opening under the new normal policy, visitors need to register before arriving to the island. Scuba diving excursions and overnight boat tours will be available.

“Some areas on the island are still closed during the re-opening but every national park officers are ready to assist and monitor travelers throughout their visit. A group of local volunteers would also gather to collect garbage around the island and to encourage visitors to protect the island environment.”

SOURCE: Pattaya News

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