Thailand’s Tourism – waning confidence needs steady nerves
by Andrew J Wood
Thailand’s Tourism industry faces a testing time. With Thai
economic fundamentals taking a beating and a potentially weaker baht,
what’s in store for the Thai Tourism sector?
photo shows a colourful bass relief at the Grand Palace in Bangkok. The
Thai tourism sector is coming under increasing pressure from both
economic and political uncertainties. (Photo A.J Wood)
Negative news abounds with daily predictions on the price of oil;
increasing food prices; natural disasters and political nervousness.
Will this impact Thailand’s long haul traffic and domestic travel, also
I believe we are at an important junction. How the government handles
the increasing dissatisfaction of higher prices and the public’s lack of
confidence will be tested by how quickly they can demonstrate that
people’s daily lives are set to improve.
It’s a difficult task and will need great leadership with a focus on the
country before self. However many political observers believe that this
is not possible with the current administration.
The most immediate effect of rising oil prices is that fewer people are
travelling. A recent industry report suggested that global air traffic
was down and fewer trips are being made compared to a similar period
last year. The need to travel is being closely scrutinised. Add to that
the economic woes of airlines facing as much as 50% of their costs just
to pay for fuel and a shrinking customer base. THAI International (TG)
recently cancelled their direct flights to New York and reduced their
LA-BKK schedule from daily to just five times per week. There will be
much more of the same and even closures.
A respected industry source has indicated that airlines have huge
outstanding airport, fuel and landing fee charges at Thailand’s
Suvarnabhumi airport. Airlines are struggling with cash flow. More
airlines will face a cash critical situation within weeks. National
papers have already been reporting the potential closure of Nok Air, due
to massive losses. The low budget airline is a sibling of THAI.
The weak will fall by the way side, but the strong will trim back. Fewer
routes, fewer choices and most likely higher prices. Not a healthy
situation for an industry that relies so heavily on aircraft to
transport tourists, with 80% arriving by air.
Rising oil prices not only means rising costs but rising inflation.
Vietnam and India have Asia’s highest inflation rate. Vietnam tops the
list at 25%. Further pressure to float the dong could lead to a
devaluation that will have an impact on Thailand and SE Asia.
The baht is loosing its shine, a weak dollar has created a strong
looking baht but look carefully at the Baht/Euro rate and the baht has
weakened 8% in 3 months. Difficulty in obtaining quotes on forward baht
buying has left a few to speculate that a significant correction is
possible. Good news for Thai tourism and exports, but it puts even
greater inflationary pressure on the government as the price of imported
Pay, energy and the cost of raw materials, across the board are rising.
The ingredients in the economic cooking pot are looking set to boil
over. How the government cools things down is going to be important in
the short term.
And what of the government? This writer has never been more worried that
the country is facing a deadlock of bi-polarised interest that will
challenge the most skilled politicians. The People’s Alliance for
Democracy (PAD) and the democratic opposite party have little in common
with the ruling coalition lead by People Power Party leader and PM Mr.
Samak Sundaravej. Thankfully much of the posturing is done without the
knowledge of visiting tourists, however the country is facing an uneasy
time and very few initiatives to solve current economic woes are
forthcoming from a government who are so focused on re-writing the
constitution, to allow former friends and politicians back into power.
But what are the bright spots? The Tourism Authority (TAT) are still
upbeat that they can reach their target this year of 15.7 million
visitors with China, India and medical tourism helping to boost numbers.
And maybe we will, but as former Minister of Tourism, Dr Suvit Yodmani
so rightly identified, quality not quantity maybe a more productive goal
for our national tourism authority.
With an expected 20,000 new hotel rooms coming on line in Thailand by
2011, the pressure for more visitors to fill these new rooms will be
high from hotel owners. The good news for agents and tourists… it should
keep hotel prices competitive for years to come.
Andrew J Wood is the General Manager of the Chaophya Park Hotel &
Resort, Bangkok and President of Skal Int’l Bangkok, Skal Int’l
Councillor-Thailand and Skal Asian Area-Director of Development.
Dusit Thani Pattaya promotes environment protection at
the Thailand Tourism Festival 2008
Dusit Thani Pattaya representatives led by Prawes
Akanimart (far right) welcome visitors from the Tourism Authority of Thailand
led by Deputy Governor for Policy and Planning, Akkapon Prueksawan (third from
right) to the hotel booth during the recently concluded Thailand Tourism
Festival 2008 at the Impact Muang Thong Thani in Nonthaburi.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) recently invited Dusit Thani Pattaya to
participate in the exhibition “Thailand Tourism Festival 2008” held from June
5-8 at Challenger 1 of Impact Muang Thong Thani in Nonthaburi.
The TAT sponsored event gave participating hotels and organizations from all
over Thailand the opportunity to promote their businesses to both local and
foreign visitors. In line with World Environment Day 2008, the theme of the
event also focused on the issue of environment conservation under the Green Leaf
Foundation, an organization composed of the TAT, Thai Hotels Association, UN
Environment Program, Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, Association
for the Development of Environmental Quality and the Metropolitan Waterworks
The Green Leaf Foundation was established with the main objective of developing
environmental quality for the tourism industry. During the four-day show, Dusit
Thani Pattaya featured its in-house programs and initiatives towards
environmental conservation. Various hotels from all over the country also
distributed brochures inviting tourists to see interesting places around
Thailand, each offering different regional attractions, culture and traditions.
The TAT also hopes that the event will assist in the development of the
country’s tourism business as well as boost domestic business thereby generating
income for the local people.
New hotel group announces Thai plans
KC Hotels & Resorts International will open three boutique properties on Koh
Samui by the end of this year, and plans to open more throughout Thailand within
the next two years. Targeted at families and couples, the properties will be
designed to be hip and luxurious.
First to open in October are the 88-room KC Hotel Koh Samui and the 16-key KC
Over Water Villas Koh Samui. They are located on a hillside north of Chaweng
Beach, which is about 15 minutes by car from the airport. Over Water Villas is
built over a large swimming pool. KC group general manager and vice-president
for hotel development Asia, Azuan Noordin, said it was Thailand’s first resort
to follow Bora Bora’s and the Maldives’ over-sea villas concept.
Another property, KC Beach Resort and Pool Villas Koh Samui, is scheduled to
open in November. It will have eight villas and 47 rooms and suites. A hotel and
serviced residence property is scheduled to open in Bangkok’s Pratunam area next
year. It will have 700 rooms and serviced residence units.
The company is backed financially by a group of investors from Israel, Canada
and the UK. (TTG)
THAI adjusts fuel surcharge
Thai Airways International PLC has announced it will adjust its fuel surcharges
on international and domestic flights, effective as of 25 June 2008 onwards, due
to the increase in jet fuel cost in the world market.
Pandit Chanapai, THAI’s Executive Vice President, Commercial Department, said
that the company had regrettably been forced, due to economic reasons, to
re-calculate the fuel surcharges on all classes of passenger travel on THAI
flights and air tickets issued by THAI’s sales and ticketing offices worldwide.
The hikes on international fares will range from USD 60.00 on a return trip from
Bangkok to Hanoi to a whopping USD230:00 fuel surcharge on return flights
between Bangkok and Los Angeles, London or Paris. Surcharges on flights to
Australia will be set at USD185:00 whilst those to Europe will start at
Meanwhile for domestic flights on all sectors, the company will collect a fuel
surcharge rate of THB 850 per sector, excluding the route Chiang Mai-Mae Hong
Son whereby THB 600 will be the going rate.
The company recently announced it was suspending flights on the return route
from Bangkok to New York effective as of 1 July 2008 and that it would also
reduce the frequency of its direct Bangkok-Los Angeles flights from one daily
flight to five flights per week, using 215-seat Airbus 340-500 aircraft until
From October, the airline will operate five Bangkok-Los Angeles flights per week
via Osaka, using 292-seat Boeing 777-200ER aircraft.
Anantara Golden Triangle named
in top 10 ‘World’s Most
Elephant sanctuary highlighted in conservation efforts
Thailand’s Anantara Golden Triangle Resort & Spa has been selected as one of the
most socially responsible hotels in the world by Forbes Traveler. Only 10 hotels
were hand-picked for inclusion in the list which honors environmental endeavors
and guest experiences that Forbes Traveler describes as “milestones of
hotel-sponsored humanitarian aid”.
can take a three-day mahout training course at the Anantara Elephant Camp in
northern Thailand. (Photo courtesy Anantara Golden Triangle Resort & Spa)
The resort, one of the most luxurious in Northern Thailand, is renowned for its
many efforts to protect the environment and promote environmental conservation.
An undisputed highlight of a guest’s stay and the resort’s conservation efforts
would have to be a visit to the elephant camp. Set within a lush bamboo forest,
the camp is home to 16 adult and 13 baby elephants – all rescued from a life of
begging on the streets. On an on-going basis, John Roberts the Elephant Camp
director, works closely with the Thai government’s Elephant Conservation Center
in Lampang to develop Anantara’s camp as an elephant sanctuary.
At the beginning of the 20th century, there were an estimated 100,000 elephants
in the Kingdom. According to latest estimates, the elephant population in
Thailand has dwindled to just over 4,000. Some 2,500 are domesticated elephants,
while a mere 1,500 roam freely in the wild.
Alarmingly, overall numbers are further decreasing, making projects like
Anantara’s Elephant Camp vital to the success of national conservation efforts.
With legislation in place to ban elephants from ‘working’ in cities, there are
few alternatives for the continued existence of domesticated elephants.
The common sight of elephants today in many large Thai cities appears to be a
novelty at first, but the sad reality is that they are used for begging, are
often not well fed and live in unsuitable conditions. And that’s what
essentially gave birth to Anantara’s Elephant Camp – the realization that an
alternative could be offered to the mahouts (persons who drive an elephant),
their families and elephants - a place where the animals are rehabilitated in
their native habitat and assured of medical care and sustenance, while the
mahout and his family are also well taken care of.
Guests at Anantara Golden Triangle are also offered the rare opportunity to
learn to ‘drive’ an elephant by choosing to undertake a unique three-day mahout
training course. As well as learning the mahout commands and some log rolling
skills, guests can take their pachyderm charge bathing, partake in mahout camp
life and gain a greater understanding of their three-ton mount from Roberts.
The funds raised from running the Mahout training courses along with guest
donations are valuable in ensuring the continued existence of the Anantara
Elephant Camp. (eTN)
New budget terminal
for Manila airport
The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) is building a budget terminal
near the Manila Domestic Airport (MDA), to be ready by March 2009.
Catering to airlines using smaller aircraft for domestic routes, the
200-million-peso (US$4.52 million) terminal will have 10 departure gates, 18
check-in counters, and three arrival baggage belts.
The no-frills terminal is targeting an annual passenger throughput of 2.7
million, accommodating 1,000 departing passengers at a time.
The budget terminal is expected to relieve MDA’s passenger traffic. MIAA is
expanding MDA to accommodate 1,200 passengers at a time, from 900 now. (TTG)
Bokor Mountain to have
Palmer-designed golf course
Bokor Mountain Golf & Country Club, part of Sokha Hotels’ US$1 billion Bokor
Mountain development in south Cambodia, will feature an Arnold
Palmer-designed golf course.
The 36-hole course will occupy 45 hectares of land near Bokor National Park.
Phase one of the project is starting this month, with an 18-hole golf course
scheduled to be ready by December 2010. The remaining 18 holes will be added
in phase two.
When completed, the project will include a traditional Khmer-style club
house, locker rooms with heated plunge pools, accommodation for stay-over
clients who may want to catch the first flight at 06.30 before returning to
Phnom Penh, a pro shop, tennis courts, a swimming pool, a members’ lounge,
restaurants, bars and Jasmine Spa.
The Bokor Mountain development is expected to be fully completed within the
next 15 years. (TTG)