HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Ad Carabo launches ‘drink for life’

Finance Ministry and BOT set ceiling on credit card rates

MOF boasts of successful implementation of fiscal policy

Resort complex to be built for long stay guests

Accor joins ECPAT and TAT to protect children

Local girl makes it big on the coast

Ad Carabo launches ‘drink for life’

Thailand’s famous country music artist, Yuenyong Opakul, aka Ad Carabao recently announced the launch of his first serious business venture.

Working alongside Tawandaeng Brew House owner Sathien Setthasit, the superstar performer has created a new energy drink called CarabaoDaeng. The drink is priced at 10 baht per 150-cc bottle.

Despite competition from current best-sellers M150 and Krating Daeng (Red Bull), Yuenyong thinks his product can become a market leader within three years.

Yuenyong and fellow members of the Carabao band own 50 percent of the newly formed company, named Carabao Tawandaeng Co Ltd. with the remainder held by Sathien and other shareholders.

CarabaoDaeng was officially launched into the market with a 10-million baht TV commercial. The company has appointed Serm Suk, Pepsi’s local bottler, to take responsibility for the distribution of the product.

“This is my first real business,” said Yuenyong, who is also executive director of Carabao Tawandaeng. Yuenyong said that he wanted to start the business to help generate income to support the Carabao band and its employees.

“With the new digital technology and increase in pirated music products, we cannot create enough income to support the Carabao family. We currently have nine band members and more than 50 backstage people. We have to stage up to 300 concerts a year to support our group and that is very exhausting,” Yuenyong said.

Sathien, managing director of Carabao Tawandaeng Co, said the company is confident in the quality and taste of CarabaoDaeng

“In a market survey, 94 %of the people who tried CarabaoDaeng said they liked the taste, and more than 90 % said they intended to buy the product when it is available,” said Sathien.

Parinya Permpanich, sales operation director for Serm Suk Plc, said the company aims to achieve a 10 % share of the 14 billion baht market within 12 months.

“We intend to make CarabaoDaeng the market leader, with more than 40-per-cent market share, in three years,” said Parinya.

Finance Ministry and BOT set ceiling on credit card rates

The Finance Ministry and Bank of Thailand (BOT) have finally agreed to set a ceiling on credit-card interest rates at 1.5 per cent a month or 18 %a year. The resolution took effect on November 1st and will also apply to penalty payments on monthly credit card bills.

The decision of both government bodies came after a series of complaints by cardholders that banks and card-issuers were imposing excessive charges, including penalty rates. This will be Thailand’s first official ceiling on credit card interest rates charged by issuers. The government previously had a liberal policy which allowed banks and to set their own criteria.

The new ceiling will address complaints that some card providers, mostly foreign banks and finance companies, are charging as much as 25 % annual interest.

The authorities will also move to strengthen the financial system by setting a minimum financial requirement for first-time credit-card applicants.

The move follows a sharp rise in the availability and use of credit cards as lenders compete to increase their market share and build their consumer base. Lenders formerly required an applicant to earn at least 15,000 baht per month, but in June of this year, the central bank dumped the minimum-income requirement, leaving card-issuers to decide for themselves as to the risk of some applicants.

But growing concern about the nation’s economic situation for next year has prompted worries in the financial community that the credit card boom could lead to fiscal instability.

Finance Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said, “So far, increased credit-card spending in Thailand has been largely due to personal consumption and hasn’t indicated any risk. However, there must be new regulations to supervise the business to prevent problems in the future.”

BOT Governor Pridiyathorn Devakul said he thinks that maintaining a minimum salary limitation was more important than placing a ceiling on rate charges. He said that low income people could be at risk when using credit cards beyond their ability to repay debts. “Credit cards should be issued only to those who have secure jobs and adequate income. If their salary is low, they will most certainly have trouble servicing credit-card debt,” the governor said. (TNA)

MOF boasts of successful implementation of fiscal policy

The Finance Ministry says its implementation of its fiscal policy has been a success. Somchai Sajjapong, deputy spokesman of the ministry, revealed the policy has been implemented so efficiently that the nation’s economy has picked up and continues to expand despite world economic uncertainty.

The Thai economy has satisfactorily grown at the rate of 2.1%, 3.9% and 5.1% in the first, second and third quarters of this year. The economy in the last quarter is expected to enjoy similar growth rate to that of the third quarter.

Somchai said the better-than-expected economic growth resulted in a smaller fiscal deficit and is lower than the target originally set. He said the government is also relying less on loans to offset the budget deficit and its role in stimulating the economy by government spending is decreasing. Public consumption is growing and current investment is sustainable. Private companies have been encouraged to stimulate the economy which has allowed government to reduce its role in that area.

Somchai projected the government would still play a supporting role in jump-starting the economy next year, but prefers to gradually ease that role for fiscal sustainability.

The public fiscal deficit is expected to be around 122 billion baht or 2.1% of gross domestic products (GDP) next year. Of this, 110 billion baht or 1.9% of GDP belongs to the government and 15.7 billion or 0.3% of GDP to state enterprises. (TNA)

Resort complex to be built for long stay guests

Thailand and Japan will join hands to build a resort complex on 1,500 rai of land in the famous northern province of Chiang Mai to serve overseas long stay guests. The project is part of a government policy to encourage long-stay tourism, particularly in the senior citizen and retiree markets.

Chalermsak Suranant, director of Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Northern Office Region 1 said that foreign tourists between the ages of 45-50 are the target of the TAT long-stay tourism project.

A survey showed that European and Japanese travelers chose northern Thailand as their destination due to the landscape, fine service, low cost of living, diversity of food, and various recreation activities. They normally stay about a month.

Japanese tourists in particular prefer to travel with groups and want to stay near hospitals, shopping centers, Japanese restaurants, and golf courses, making Chiang Mai an ideal province for the project.

Director Chalermsak said, “There is only one weak point that should be addressed. We have a lack of Japanese speaking personnel. Therefore we will arrange for more training in Japanese language skills.”

Sauwalak Chimada, vice president of the Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce and managing director of Sarika Tour said that her company and five Japanese tour agencies had formed a joint venture to build an accommodation and leisure complex worth two billion baht on 1,400 rai of land on Hangdong-Samueng Road.

Sauwalk said, “The new resort complex for ‘well-off pensioners’ will be comprised of a hospital, condominium, lodges, indoor and outdoor sport facilities, golf course, school, and spa. Japanese speaking staff will be familiar with Japanese people and their standards will be available to provide the best service for guests.”

The architecture will be northern Lanna-style and will be surrounded by cascading streams and mountains. Suawalk said this is more appealing to Japanese than are seaside resorts.

Construction will completed in the next 2 years and the company will launch a web-site to promote sales in overseas markets. (TNA)

Accor joins ECPAT and TAT to protect children

Accor has joined ECPAT and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to protect children and combat commercial sexual exploitation of children. ECPAT International is a Bangkok-based, non-governmental organization established in 1990 and dedicated to the elimination of child prostitution, child pornography, and the trafficking of children for sexual purposes. The ECPAT network consists of groups and individuals working in over 50 countries around the world.

Together they have launched a training program for Accor hotel general managers and certified trainers in Thailand that will be extended to all properties in the country. Accor will then enlarge the campaign to other destinations where Accor hotels are located in co-operation with ECPAT and the respective National Tourism Organization in each country.

The employee-training program will focus on educating existing staff on how to deal with situations involving child prostitution as they arise. Accor is developing a brochure on commercial sexual exploitation of children that will be put into the welcome packets for all new employees.

Accor has also printed a poster that will be prominently displayed in all hotels aimed at educating guests on its commitment to protecting children, sustainable tourism and protecting the environment.

This will include communicating information to customers to raise awareness regarding commercial sexual exploitation of children, while educating tourists on each country’s legal code regarding child prostitution and the penalties for unlawful behavior.

Accor vice president of human resources - Asia, Fabrice Tessier said the company’s commitment to working with ECPAT and protecting children started at Accor’s Paris head office with its subsidiary Carlson Wagonlit Travel giving brochures to tourists.

Tessier said, “Accor is deeply committed to responsible tourism and protecting children wherever we do business. We need to educate both our staff and our customers on these important issues and working with ECPAT is an important step towards realizing this goal.”

ECPAT International Tourism Coordinator, Sendrine Fabie, said it was important for ECPAT to have good tourism partners like Accor and the TAT to help address and reduce the problem. “It is a significant step for ECPAT to have greater alliances with the private sector.”

Fabie said, “We have been quite successful in working with governments over the past decade, the next step is trying to work with business involved. Accor is amongst the very first hotel groups to join forces with ECPAT and I hope we can replicate this model further.”

“Front line staff is usually approached first - it is at that level where you have to empower employees. If they don’t feel free to speak with management, or think that management will not support them, they are more likely to turn a blind eye to what is happening,” Fabie explained.

TAT director of the tourism services development department, Vunsadej Thavarasukha agreed, “The Thai government is committed to protecting children from commercial sexual exploitation. Working with ECPAT and Accor will help raise awareness on what needs to be done to solve this problem,” he said.

Local girl makes it big on the coast

Wannapa Rakkeo appointed director of marketing communications for Hard Rock Hotel Pattaya

Chiang Mai University graduate Wannapa Rakkeo was just appointed director of marketing communications for the Hard Rock Hotel in Pattaya. Andrew Khoo, general manager of the Hard Rock Hotel Pattaya, announced the appointment.

Wannapa holds a bachelor’s degree from the faculty of humanities, Chiang Mai University.

Wannapa Rakkeo

After her graduation, she served as an editorial assistant for the ‘Manager’, an English language magazine and later joined Cathay Pacific as a flight attendant, based in Hong Kong. She also spent three years in New Delhi, India, where her father was the Naval Attach้ to the Royal Thai Embassy.

Wannapa returned to Thailand and embarked on a career in public relations, starting with the Montien group of hotels. Her career moves included a stint with the President Park Group, The Waste Management Co. Ltd and prior to joining the Hard Rock Hotel Pattaya she was group director of public relations for the Marriott Resort & Spa (Thailand).

Her crowning achievement prior to her departure has been helping the Bangkok Marriott Resort & Spa win the Award of Outstanding Performance, City Hotel category, in Bangkok, as part of the Thailand Tourism Awards 2002.