HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

THAI plans expansion for Chiang Mai-Chittagong route

Tourism to bring a strong economy to Chiang Mai

Heinecke marching on the Mekong

Strategic Intelligence Centre World Watch

Government confirms Chiang Mai to be the new aviation hub in 6 months

On-flight prawns to help raise prices

THAI plans expansion for Chiang Mai-Chittagong route

Bigger planes and more freight carriers needed

Phitsanu Thepthong

Thai Airways International (THAI) operates air links from Bangkok-Chiang Mai-Chittagong to support Thai government policy to promote Chiang Mai as the hub for aviation, tourism, trade, investment and exports in this northern region.

Ms Prakaidao Howattanakul, THAI district sales manager for the upper North, announced that from March 1, THAI will be using A300-600 Airbus ... to carry more passengers and cargo. (Photo by Chin Ratitamkul)

Ms Prakaidao Howattanakul, THAI district sales manager for the upper North announced that from March 1, THAI will be using A300-600 Airbus with 249 seats, replacing the current Boeing 737-400, with 149 seats, to carry more passengers and cargo.

THAI also plans to rent space at Chittagong Airport for up to 10 years as the base for THAI’s connecting flights to Middle East countries.

These plans were revealed at a recent THAI seminar held at the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel in Chiang Mai.

Representatives from both public and private sectors included Chiang Mai’s deputy governor, Prinya Parnthong; Niwat Chantrachote of THAI’s Bangladesh based station; Sukin Wongsa, the president of Northern Handicraft Manufacturers producers and exporters; and Ms Jiaraporn Tulayanond, director of the Department of Exports Promotion, Northern Center.

Niwat said since the inaugural flight on December 11, 2002 between Chiang Mai and Bangladesh, passengers and freight has increased from 50-80 percent. Some of the increases have been in medical and health tourism, Niwat said, because, he believes, Chiang Mai is regarded as the medical hub.

Jiraporn Tulayanond, director of the Department of Exports Promotion, Northern Center, shares this optimism, and said that Bangladesh is an opportunity for Thai producers and exporters.

Chumpol Chanjira, representing THAI, said three main products are exported from Chiang Mai: vegetables and fruits (three tons a month on average), electrical appliances, and OTOP products.

Despite these positive signs, some of the seminar participants said that the import tax remained as high as 100-130 percent for Thai products, which is still a stumbling block that could prevent further increases in exports to Bangladesh.

Tourism to bring a strong economy to Chiang Mai

As long as the bird flu over the cuckoo’s nest doesn’t kill it

Chin Rattitamakul

Somsak Vanitkachorn, secretary of Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce, said the economic indicators for the northern region this year would be bright for the tourism sector.

Somsak Vanitkachorn, secretary of Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce.

He estimated that over 35 percent of Chiang Mai’s revenue is expected to be generated by the tourism industry, however, SARS, bird flu, and terrorism would affect the tourism and services sector.

Other economic factors include public spending, stimulated by the government sector for investment and import and export sector would be able to counteract any negative factors in tourism. The Free Trade Areas agreement with China is expected to increase export volumes much more than last year, although, farmers had to adjust for changes such as lower pricing.

This year we will see many tourism promotional campaigns launched by the government and private sectors. The Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce anticipated that there would be over 40,000 million baht revenue generated by the tourism industry this year. However, the Chamber injected a note of caution saying that although Chiang Mai has prepared for expansion such as the aviation hub and Chiang Mai the ICT City, the related problems, such as overcrowding in the city, road congestion hindering transportation and traffic would eventually destroy the Chiang Mai environment and culture. There is also the problem with no public transport suitable for tourists.

Heinecke marching on the Mekong


William E. Heinecke will deliver the closing address at the Ninth Mekong Tourism Forum in Chiang Mai on March 28. Heinecke is well equipped to deliver the goods for the forum, being the successful businessman who introduced pizzas to Thailand and is still delivering the goods!

William Heinecke

In 1967, he strode into a lawyer’s office in Bangkok, handed over the equivalent of USD 1,000 and registered two companies, Inter-Asian Enterprise and Inter-Asian Publicity. He had borrowed USD 1,200 from a moneylender and used the remainder on plastic buckets and floor mops for his new cleaning business and a few minutes of airtime on a local radio station.

Thirty-seven years later, William Heinecke is the chief executive and major shareholder of two publicly listed companies - Royal Garden Resorts (RGR) and the Minor Corporation - which employ more than 12,000 people. RGR owns luxury hotels including The Four Seasons Bangkok, The Four Seasons Chiang Mai, Bangkok Marriott Resort and Spa, Pattaya Marriott Resort and Spa, Hua Hin Marriott Resort and Spa, JW Marriott Phuket, Anantara Resort and Spa Hua Hin, Anantara Resort and Spa Golden Triangle and Harbourview Hotel Haiphong, Vietnam. In 2003, Forbes magazine named RGR one of the ‘best under a billion’ companies. Topic of his address will be on how investors can realize the promise of the Mekong region (but you’ll have to get in before Bill!).

Strategic Intelligence Centre World Watch

Thailand tops for Lonely Planet readers

According to a survey of 7,500 independent travelers from 134 countries, Thailand is the world’s top destination, beating Italy by four votes. Conducted by Lonely Planet, the survey marked the guidebook publisher’s 30th anniversary. The next three destinations were Australia, India and New Zealand.

Low-cost airlines for China

China (PRC)’s General Administration of Civil Aviation will allow small-scale budget airlines once regulatory issues are finalized and safety and security standards are met.

China spending big on airline infrastructure

In 2004, .by 20 percent and transport volume by 19 percent. About CNY15 billion (USD1.8 billion) will be invested in airports and other fixed asset projects.

India and Pakistan stop waiting for the trains

Rail services between India and Pakistan resumed January 15, two weeks after commercial air services between the two countries also recommenced.

Government confirms Chiang Mai to be the new aviation hub in 6 months

Since Bangkok is already over capacity, there’s nowhere else?

The Ministry of Transport and Communications is confident that Chiang Mai would be the airline hub in this region, after it has been accelerating negotiations about the aviation rights among ASEAN countries.

Vichet Kasemthongsri, the Deputy minister of transport and communications visited Chiang Mai air traffic control center to follow up the development potential of Chiang Mai International Airport. Vichet said that he has assigned 14 subcommittees to push the negotiations on the aviation rights with each airline to fly to Chiang Mai to make it a real hub. Vichet was confident that within two to three years they would finalize negotiations on aviation rights with all ASEAN countries. China and India have already signed the agreement.

Vichet affirmed that there would be more projects to survey every part of the airport to see what needs improvement and expansion.

On-flight prawns to help raise prices

Passengers on Thai Airways flights are to be given prawns, prawns and more prawns in an attempt by the Department of Internal Trade to solve falling prawn prices, the department’s director-general Siriporn Yotmuangcharoen announced recently.

Addressing concerns over the low price of prawns, Siriporn said that prawns would be served on Thai Airways flights in order to encourage greater consumption of prawns among the Thai public. (TNA)