HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce trying to entice air travel

US airline screening still finds dangerous items in carry-on bags

TAT vows to step up promotion campaigns

Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce trying to entice air travel

Proposals put to THAI and Bangkok Airways

Ampai Kantawong and Autsadaporn Kamthai

Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce has asked both Thai Airways International and Bangkok Airways to schedule a stop over at Chiang Rai to transfer passengers at their International Airport before flying on to China. This request was made by the chamber’s president, aiming to encourage tourism and boost the economy in this northernmost province of Chiang Rai.

Sermchai Kitirattanapaiboon, the president of the Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce, said that at the conference of Joint Public and Private Sectors Consultative Committee (JPPC) earlier this month, Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce offered two proposals, asking Thai Airlines International flights routing between Chiang Mai and Kunming (south China), and Bangkok Airways flight routing Chiang Mai and Sibsong Panna (south China) to possibly transfer passengers from both arrivals and departures of the flights at Chiang Rai Airport once a week to enhance the potentialities of Chiang Rai tourism and its attendant economic factors.

US airline screening still finds dangerous items in carry-on bags

Despite reminders that potential weapons aren’t allowed in airliner cabins, people are still trying to bring tens of thousands of knives, dozens of guns and thousands of box cutters on board planes every month.

Airport screeners have seized more than 4.8 million items - including guns, knives, a kitchen sink pipe and a circular saw - in the 13 months the federal government has been in charge of security.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) spokesman Brian Turmail said more education is needed to alert the traveling public to the items barred from aircraft cabins.

Since February 2002, TSA screeners confiscated 1.4 million knives, 2.4 million sharp objects, 1,101 guns, 15,666 clubs, more than 125,000 incendiary items and nearly 40,000 box cutters.

The TSA released these figures at the beginning of March and the agency says this is the most thorough accounting of seizures at the nation’s 429 commercial airports. The TSA said it is working with airports to put passenger information on airport radio stations but that even with all the publicity some people don’t learn. “If you don’t know by now that box cutters are inappropriate, no amount of public education is going to make a difference,” Turmail said.

Among the more unusual items collected by screeners were a 15-piece cutlery set, a machete, a trailer hitch, horseshoes, that kitchen sink pipe and metal wall hangings depicting the Greek god Apollo.

Paul Hudson, executive director of the Aviation Consumer Action Project, an airline safety and security advocacy group, called the number of confiscated items mind-boggling. “If that’s how many they’ve found, how many still got through?” he asked.

A test last year by the Transportation Security Administration showed screeners found knives only 70 percent of the time and missed one in four guns.

The TSA has changed the list of forbidden items over the past year, now allowing tweezers, nail clippers and toy transformer robots that once were prohibited. The agency posts the list on its website

TAT vows to step up promotion campaigns

Patpong Abhijatapong, deputy governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said that his agency has revised its growth forecast for visitor numbers this year to take into account conflict in the Middle East. He said that tourist arrivals should still see a 1.7 to 4.0 percent growth for 2003.

In 2002 10.8 million tourists visited the country, up 7.3 percent on the previous year. Patpong said, “We originally projected a 6 percent growth this year, but as a realistic measure our projections have been adjusted accordingly.”

Thailand is considered a safe tourist destination but war could have a global impact on travel.

Officials from TAT said predominantly Buddhist Thailand had been pretty much unaffected by the negative fallout from the region’s tourism industry from the bomb blasts in Bali last October, which prompted several Western governments to issue travel advisories on Southeast Asia.

“Thailand continues to attract tourists because it is a stable and peaceful country with excellent quality of products and services at good value for money,” said Tourism Authority governor Juthamas Siriwan. “Considerable global instability has increased our motivation to make Thailand the tourism capital of Asia within three years,” he added.

Creative and extensive public relations campaigns and road shows to foreign countries have produced good results. TAT says that revenues to the country in 2002 had risen by 11.5 percent to 360.6 billion baht ($8.50 billion), accounting for around 6.7 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

Patpong said TAT will intensify its marketing campaigns in major markets this year, particularly in Malaysia, Japan, China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia.

Malaysia continued to supply the most visitors to neighboring Thailand in 2002, with 1.3 million people crossing over into the kingdom which amounted to an 11.8 percent increase in tourist arrivals. Japanese were the second largest group of tourists to visit Thailand last year, with 1.22 million visitors, a 4.6 percent rise on the previous year. Around 760,000 Chinese tourists entered Thailand - a 30 percent jump. Tourists from Britain totaled 570,000, up 10 percent in 2001, making them the largest national group from Europe.