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.
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.”
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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