TRAVEL & TOURISM
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Thailand praised for role and vision in addressing SARS crisis

Surin elephants to feast on 70-ton banquet

Dragonair to launch direct Bangkok service

Britain campaigns to tap Asia’s MICE segments

Thai Airways slashes online fares

Phuket launches sub tours on December 1st

Thailand praised for role and vision in addressing SARS crisis

Thailand has been praised by the Travel Trade Gazette Asia (TTG Asia), the most leading and influential travel magazine in Asia, for the country’s role and vision with effective strategies in addressing a recent tourism crisis caused by the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in the region earlier this year.

The Ministry of Tourism and Sports said in a statement on November 3 that TTG Asia had expressed its appreciation to the Thai kingdom, particularly the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Thai Airways International Plc (THAI), and the Federation of Thai Tourism Industry for their collaboration in surviving the kingdom from the recent SARS crisis successfully.

Tourism and Sports Minister Sontaya Khunpluem was praised for his role and vision with effective actions in bringing together all parties concerned collaboratively and systematically to launch programs and implement activities aimed to convincing world tourists that Thailand is a safe tourism haven, leading to the nation’s success in getting through the SARS crisis.

The TAT, THAI and the Federation of Thai Tourism Industry were praised for their collaboration in launching and implementing the programs and activities.

“The Tourism and Sports Minister, who chairs the Tourism Committee of Thailand, has called meetings of parties concerned since March 2003 to work out on plans and strategies to deal with the SARS crisis and impacts of the US-Iraqi war, leading to initiatives to launch and implement such programs as Thailand SmilesPlus, Mega Famtrip, Visit Thailand with Luck, and Free Tickets with THAI, which have sailed the country through the SARS crisis successfully. The programs were launched and implemented by the TAT, THAI, and the Federation of Thai Tourism Industry collaboratively”, said the statement.

TTG Asia has specially praised the Mega Famtrip Program, managed by the TAT with the cooperation of THAI, the Federation of the Thai Tourism Industry and the Ministry of Public Health, in which over 1,300 journalists from around the world were invited to visit Thailand so that they could help publicize the safety and SARS-free situation of the kingdom, and the Visit Thailand with Luck Program, jointly managed by the TAT and THAI with a budget of US$25 million, in which 20,000 free THAI tickets were presented to passengers through lucky drawings.

Given the strategies, Thailand has recovered from the SARS crisis quicker than many other countries in the region, with continued growth in its domestic tourism industry, from 1% in August to 3% in September, and expected 4% in October, according to the statement.

The TAT, THAI, and the Federation of Thai Tourism Industry were presented with the TTG Asia Award for their outstanding role benefiting the regional tourism market, together with other selected 12 personalities and organizations at a ceremony held on November 4. (TNA)


Surin elephants to feast on 70-ton banquet

The traditional elephant round-up of the northeastern province of Surin is now in its 43rd year. Plans this year include a spectacular show and a 70-ton banquet for 300 elephants, the largest number in the event’s history.

Kittiphat Rungthanakiert, president of the Surin Provincial Administrative Association, announced that this year’s Elephant Round-up and Red Cross Fair would be the largest - and indeed only - event of its kind in the world.

Visitors to the event will be greeted by giant sculptures of elephant tusks as tall as three-storey buildings as soon as they get near the showground, where around 300 elephants will be waiting to perform.

Included in the festival, which will be held on 7-18 November, will be elephant processions giving the history of elephants from ancient times to the present, and an elephant banquet contest, with tables stretching over a distance of two kilometers.

Kittiphat said that invitations had now been issued to elephant camps, and that the food for the pachyderms had already been prepared. The elephants will feast on sugarcane, pineapples, water melons and cucumbers. The banquet will be broadcast on Modernine TV. (TNA)


Dragonair to launch direct Bangkok service

Dragon is starting a new non-stop Hong Kong-Bangkok service and has opened an office in the Thai capital for the first time. The twice-daily service began on November 1 and will operate in the afternoon and evening using either an Airbus 330-300 with 284 seats or an A320 with 158 seats, depending on demand. Dragonair will continue to operate its thrice-weekly Hong Kong-Phuket service. (TTG Asia)


Britain campaigns to tap Asia’s MICE segments

Britain has mounted its first-ever marketing campaign to tap Asia’s business and MICE segments. The former British Tourist Authority, which has been restructured and was re-launched as VisitBritain in April, is making its debut at IT&CMA, with a firm commitment to work with Asia’s professional MICE organizers. VisitBritain’s manager South-east Asia, Michael McCormick, has been appointed the NTO’s regional business specialist and MICE ‘champion’.

McCormick said, “Global business tourism, including MICE, to the UK has been growing significantly in recent years. There is strong potential within the Asian region as economic recovery is slowly returning. Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand have been generating increases in business travel spend to Britain of between five and nine per cent, while Japan has held steady in the period between 1997 and 2002.”

McCormick added, “We know Asian MICE groups with between 300 and 500 people are going to the UK and Europe, and VisitBritain’s role is to make it easier for meeting planners and MICE organizers to send business to Britain. We will lend support to event bids, from joint presentations to the provision of bid documents.”

VisitBritain will also highlight British MICE events such as CONFEX, the Incentive and Travel Show and association meetings to the Asian industry. Immediate targets are Singapore and South-east Asia, where VisitBritain has started to build its partner database.

Information and tools for the industry include VisitBritain’s website www.visit britain.com/sg (for those in Singapore) or www.visit britain.org. There is also Meet Britain, a new VisitBritain publication produced specifically for the MICE industry. (TTG Asia)


Thai Airways slashes online fares

Thai Airways International (THAI) is about to slash its Internet fares to bring them in line with high-street agency prices. The new Internet prices will be introduced in Europe on November 1, and will be applied in Australia, North America and Asia by December 1. Prices will be about 20 percent less than they are today, which will make tour operator package prices 20 per cent less competitive and will give retail travel agents the option of selling THAI at zero profit to match the online prices, or set prices higher than the fare posted on the Internet.

The Internet price will be set at what THAI refers to as its ‘second-tier price’ which is about 3 to 10 percent above the price given to THAI’s first-tier agents, mostly big volume tour operators such as Kuoni, Thomas Cook and Virgin Holidays. Some 95 per cent of the other agents worldwide fall into the second-tier category. (TTG Asia)


Phuket launches sub tours on December 1st

A submarine tour service will be operated in Phuket as of December 1 to serve people and tourists wanting to explore the fantastic nature of the Andaman Sea reef teeming with marine life.

Panu Maswongsa, a representative of Phuket Submarine Co., said that the US-built DS-48 submarine, which cost US$ 2.5 million, is equipped with the latest technology of its class. The service would be soft launched on December 1, and will officially start its full operation on January 1 in 2004.

The vessel is 25 meters long, and can carry 51 passengers and crew. The submarine can submerge up to the depth of 180 feet, and can run underwater for three consecutive days. The company will run four dives a day to each take 200 tourists in a 45-minute excursion, which charges of 2,500 baht per person. (TNA)