HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Fly Chiang Mai-Phuket to get your toes in the water

Mae Hong Son to revive WWII airfields for tourists

THAI increases domestic flights for New Year’s holiday

OX ready to go with shuttle service

Tourism to grow 12 percent for 2004

Warning for Thai students taking Work and Travel projects in the USA

Fly Chiang Mai-Phuket to get your toes in the water

Good vibrations during Phuket’s First International Boat Show

Reinhard Hohler

Thailand’s first international boat show on the water, Phuket International Marine Expo 2003 (PIMEX) was held on December 7-10 at The Boat Lagoon, Phuket Island. It attracted almost 2335 visitors to the 80 exhibition booths with over 120 companies represented from 10 countries.

CEO Governor of Phuket Province, Udomsak Usawarangkura, opened the show saying the marine location of Phuket to be on par with Singapore, Langkawi in Malaysia and Port Blair in the Andamans/India.

The government’s recent decision, reducing both import duty and excise tax on yachts and boats down to zero, should result in a boom in marine tourism and will almost certainly lead to an upsurge in marina development.

I took advantage of the daily direct flight by Thai Airways International (THAI) from Chiang Mai to Phuket, bypassing the Bangkok bottleneck. Arriving at Phuket’s International Airport, there is a local limousine service to downtown Phuket Town for only 100 baht per person.

As there is no direct flight from Phuket back to Chiang Mai, on the return leg I had to fly to Bangkok first to connect to my destination in the North. This inconvenience should be solved quickly by Phuket Air and Bangkok Airways even on a low cost basis.

I suggest that the development plan is worthwhile to connect and promote the “twin” destinations of Phuket and Chiang Mai to tap the huge expatriates’ and emerging seniors’ tourism market.

For further information, contact GMS Media Travel Consultant Reinhard Hohler email: [email protected]

Mae Hong Son to revive WWII airfields for tourists

The northern province of Mae Hong Son is considering re-opening three World War II-era airfields to cope with growing numbers of tourists, according to provincial governor Suphot Laowansiri. Under the proposals, airports will be opened in Pai, Khun Yuam and Mae Sariang districts at the beginning of next year. Suphot said that the airports would service small groups of tourists using light aircraft.

The first airport to be opened will be Pai, due to the district’s enormous tourism potential and the fact that communications equipment at the airport is still in working order.

On December 6 a fleet of 30 four-seater aircraft, all containing Thai tourists, used the Pai airport for the first time. Issaret Phusara, head of the provincial tourism coordination center, said that the airport was particularly challenging for flying enthusiasts due to its mountainous location. (TNA)

THAI increases domestic flights for New Year’s holiday

Thai Airways International (THAI) will increase its flight operations on domestic routes to major tourist destinations for air travelers during the New Year holiday and switch to larger capacity planes to serve more passengers.

The flagship carrier will operate additional flights from December 26, 2003 to January 4, 2004 on domestic routes from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket, Krabi, Hat Yai, and Trang. (TNA)

OX ready to go with shuttle service

Orient Thai Airlines (OX) became the first airline to operate a low-cost flight in Thailand when it recently launched its Bangkok-Chiang Mai shuttle service. The flight, priced at 999 baht (US$25) one way, will operate three times daily until December 25 when it will be increased to six times daily or more, depending on demand.

OX will use two Boeing 757-200s, each configured with 216 seats. Customers will be allocated a seat, given free soft drinks and there will be no cancellation fee if passengers re-schedule their flight within seven days. (TTG Asia)

Tourism to grow 12 percent for 2004

Tourism and Sports Minister Sontaya Khunpluem has announced the government’s new target of a 12 percent rise in tourist arrivals next year. Citing the newly-released figures, Sontaya said that around 720,000 visitors came to Thailand in November 2003, compared to 680,000 in November last year. He also noted that all airlines were now fully booked, edging up total visitor arrivals for the year as a whole to over 10 million.

Tourist numbers in 2003 remained below the government’s initial targets made at the beginning of the year, largely due to the Iraq war, the SARS crisis and unrest in neighboring countries.

But Sontaya gave assurances that any visitors to Thailand would be safe, in particular from the possibility of terrorist attack. “The rise in tourist numbers gives a clear indication that visitors still have faith in Thailand and want to travel to the Kingdom,” he said.

Asked which groups the government’s tourism marketing plans would focus on next year, Sontaya said that the emphasis would be on medium to high income groups with high purchasing power. He added that plans for next year would be based on locality, with different plans for visitors from different regions of the globe. (TNA)

Warning for Thai students taking Work and Travel projects in the USA

Scam operators ripping off Thai families

Natchawi Srirat

Students intending to undertake job training in the US, should beware of being cheated by private agencies, warns the employment office.

Orachorn Rattanamanee, Head of Chiang Mai Employment Service Office, explained that many private agencies are currently advertising their services, in all types of mass media including distributing leaflets in schools, colleges and universities, encouraging students to apply for work and travel in America.

Private agencies claim they have a quota from the US authorities to let foreign students train and work in places in America for up to 4 months, and administration fees between 70,000-100,000 baht. Most students would be sent to work in theme parks, restaurants, hotels and other service places, and each trainee would receive between $5-7 per hour in wages. During their time in the States, they would stay with American families.

“The Office here would like to warn parents and students who are interested in this and wanting to apply for it, to study the details very carefully,” she said.

In addition, a number of applicants were not allowed to enter the US, because of improper documentation prepared by the private agencies, but those agencies did not refund the fees to the applicants.

Parents and students who have been to the US previously are concerned that there is insufficient information, for example some students who lived with American families were forced to work hard without any payments, taking advantages and turning them into virtual slaves. Female students needed to be even more careful where they were going, the type of work offered and the standard of the families who would be offering accommodation.

Parents or students who are considering these placements, or those with similar prior experiences, should ask for more information at the Chiang Mai Employment Office, Central Administration Building, 1st floor Chiang Mai City Hall, telephone 053-222-865-6 ext. 17-19 during working hours.