Vol. III No. 14 - Saturday April 3 - April 9 2004
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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Protect, Position, Promote

Caves and Japanese bunkers found in Lampang

Grand Lanna Civilization, Songkran Festival

Thailand wins ‘Go Asia Award’ for most popular tourist destination

Incentive travel to be taxed in China

‘Car passports’ to facilitate border crossings

Thailand agrees to US border control security system

More money needed in TAT coffers

Portraits by THAI

Protect, Position, Promote

9th PATA Mekong Tourism Forum, Chiang Mai

Marion & Michael Vogt

After a most successful and memorable welcome reception for the delegates by the TAT at the premises of the soon to open Mandarin Oriental Dhara Devi Chiang Mai, the official welcome and opening address was delivered by the Minister of Tourism and Sport. H. E. Sontaya Khunpluem started with a ‘thank you’ to the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) for its support and for choosing Chiang Mai as this year’s venue, as this will be boosting the confidence of people in the travel industry after the breakdown due to SARS in 2003.

H. E. Sontaya Khunpluem, Minister of Tourism and Sport, during his welcome and opening address at the Sheraton Chiang Mai.

Sontaya Khunpluem pointed at the increasing number of flights between the GMS countries, which are all working hard on improving their infrastructure and economic situation. He concluded his address by wishing the speakers and delegates success and cooperation in finding solutions how to promote, position and protect the Greater Mekong Sub-region countries with benefits for all.

Peter de Jong, president and CEO of PATA opened the forum by looking back at the significant changes and problems the tourism industry experienced since the turn of the century. He said, “Chiang Mai’s success today is a result of the vision of the Tourism Authority of Thailand and PATA who helped to create the infrastructure of the northern capital. Since tourism is the pillar of economic growth, we can create a brighter future for all Mekong destinations by sharing information; enforce cooperation and training in tourism trading institutions.”

Peter de Jong, president and CEO, PATA, Sontaya Khunpluem, Suwat Tantipat, governor of Chiang Mai amongst other VIPs during the first official morning session.

Caves and Japanese bunkers found in Lampang

Unfortunately no buried treasure

A long-rumoured cave and an old Gobori Japanese camp bunker were found in Lampang during the recent official survey. Villagers had frequently spoken of the cave which was used by the Japanese as an army bunker.

The survey of watersheds and forests was conducted by watershed preservation study unit officials, Mae Haeng School teachers, the Tambon Administration Organization, kamnans (village headmen) and villagers.

It is hoped that the Lampang district covered by the survey will be developed as a showpiece forest and tourist attraction.

Ban Kun Haeng village, Tambon Pang Tao, Ngao District, Lampang is another village that has hill tribes from Yao, Hmong, and Lua minority groups. The villagers there have helped protect the forest areas, which have important water and river sources. The forest is also home to much wild life.

Grand Lanna Civilization, Songkran Festival

The show must go on - despite acute water shortages?

Chiang Mai is to host the country’s popular New Year festival by highlighting its historic heritage of the ancient Lanna kingdom. The “Grand Lanna Civilization, Songkran Festival” will be organized by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in Chiang Mai during April 2-15. It will feature a colorful array of cultural shows, music festivals, shopping and food fairs.

The event will commemorate the culture and civilization of the Lanna Kingdom whose founder King Mengrai established Chiang Mai in 1297. The Lanna kingdom flourished for 200 years, and its culture remains a strong basis of Thailand’s northern provinces of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lampang, Lamphun, Phayao, Phrae, Nan and Mae Hong Son.

The Songkran Festival in April celebrates the Thai New Year and has become popular for its water-related activities. These cultural and historic traits are also shared by some of the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) countries, especially those that border the Lanna areas, being southern China (Yunnan province), Myanmar and Laos.

TAT Governor Mrs. Juthamas Siriwan said, “This is a good opportunity to present the pride in this shared culture. We are trying to highlight the Lanna civilization along the Mekong River nationally and internationally through cultural tourism activities and awareness campaigns. It is also in line with the plan of the Royal Thai Government to focus increased attention on Chiang Mai as the aviation and tourism hub of North Thailand.”

All the activities being organized are compatible with the concept of the event, such as the Grand Water Festival (Maha Songkran), the cultural shows, handicraft exhibitions, promotion of tourism products, Lanna cuisine festivals, and sales of the One Tambon One Product (OTOP) items. Mrs. Juthamas said, “We believe both foreign and domestic visitors will find plenty to do during this long festival. They can also witness the cultural processions and local entertainment, and traditional dress shows.”

The entire city is to be decorated and illuminated in line with the theme of the festivals. Local people have been requested to dress in their traditional outfits, and arrangements are being made to manage traffic flow and security.

While all these arrangements are in line with tourism promotion for the region, one cannot help but wonder how the farming population, that is currently fighting for every drop of water during the drought, will feel? Their enthusiasm for the events may be somewhat dampened.

Thailand wins ‘Go Asia Award’ for most popular tourist destination

Thailand has been awarded an international tourism prize for being the most popular tourist destination - good news announced by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), which is believed to further boost the country’s tourism industry.

TAT said in an official announcement that Thailand was voted to win the ‘Go Asia Award’, which was jointly organized by the Reise und Preise Magazine, a world tourism magazine, and the Go Asia group, an alliance of national tourism agencies of various countries, as well as 23 world tour businesses, and airlines.

The organizers recently surveyed opinions of 5,403 global tourists, most of whom, or 4,105 accounting for 75.60%, voted that Thailand deserved the prestige prize, followed by Singapore (53.70%), Indonesia (50.30%), Hong Kong (43.80%), and Malaysia (43.80%).

The award was announced at an international tourism fair, the ‘ITB 2004’, held in Berlin on 12-16 March, according to the TAT. The award is believed to help attribute to a further increase in foreign tourist arrivals in Thailand in coming years. (TNA)

Incentive travel to be taxed in China

The Chinese government has announced employee benefits such as incentive travel will be subject to taxation. The announcement issued by the Finance Ministry and State Administration of Taxation said in business activities, traveling associated with training sessions, seminars and fact-finding tours offered by businesses and organizations for outstanding employees should be levied as taxable employment income.

The announcement has worried business owners who feel it will deter clients who would normally give cash rewards or gifts as a convenient way to avoid tax issues, from spending generously on parties and incentive programs as employee rewards. (TTG Asia)

‘Car passports’ to facilitate border crossings

The Thai and Lao governments have signed an agreement to pave the way for a relaxation of regulations governing the passage of vehicles across their mutual border.

Announcing the ‘vehicle passport’ scheme, Deputy Transport Minister Nikorn Jamnong said that the two governments had put their signatures to a deal on road crossings between the two nations.

Under the agreement, vehicles from the two countries will now be issued with ‘passports’ and stickers detailing their country of origin, which will allow them to cross the Thai-Lao border and use the vehicle in the other country.

Nikorn expressed confidence that the deal will boost tourism and cross-border trade between the two countries. “I believe that this deal is a good one, and that in the future we can make similar arrangements with all our other neighboring countries. We are now negotiating with Cambodia, Malaysia and Myanmar”, he said.

The ‘passports’ come in three types: green for trucks and passenger vehicles, blue for diplomatic vehicles and vehicles belonging to international agencies, and purple for personal cars and other vehicles. (TNA)

Thailand agrees to US border control security system

Tom Ridge, the United State’s Secretary for Homeland Security arrived in Bangkok recently to discuss increased cooperation on combating terrorism. A memorandum of intent was signed for the Provision of a Terrorist Interdiction Program Border Control System at the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Thailand agreed to install the infrastructure for the Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Valuation System (Pisces) at Bangkok International Airport to make it operational. The system will be extended to other airports.

Pisces will be used to computerize records of passengers traveling in and out of the country in order to check the movement of suspected terrorists, especially illegal migrants. The US has forwarded the Pisces proposal to over 60 governments around the world to set up the system with financial assistance. (TNA)

More money needed in TAT coffers

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has told the government it needs more money if it is to achieve its 2004 target of 12 million foreign tourist arrivals and a major increase in domestic trips.

A government spokesman said TAT had asked for an additional 1.6 billion baht (US$64 million), to include 900 million baht for overseas promotion, 500 million to stimulate domestic tourism and 200 million for strategic studies.

Much of the additional budget will be spent on trying to change the perception that Thailand is not the place to visit in the low season. The TAT will work in conjunction with the Tourism Council to boost arrivals in the April to October period, said the spokesman. Major source markets such as Japan, Korea, the UK and Germany would be the focus of increased marketing activities, and more activity can also be anticipated within the region. (TTG Asia)

Portraits by THAI

In a move to attract more passengers, Thai Airways International Public Company Limited (THAI) has initiated new services which are likely to help the national flag carrier to achieve the goal. The airline now offers a creative service for its First Class and Business Class passengers - drawings of their portraits by professional artists. The new service was introduced recently, with the cooperation of Silphakorn University, which has helped select and send professional artists to ‘offer’ the service. THAI is also offering other initiative services, namely traditional Thai massages, and programs of classical Thai music on board. (TNA)

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