Vol. III No. 16 - Saturday April 17 - April 23 2004
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TRAVEL & TOURISM
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

TAT showcases Lanna lifestyle, tradition, art and culture in time for Songkran

Cheaper skies open up

No fishing for Pla Buek (giant catfish) during Chiang Rai Songkran

Consumers push for wide- bodied aircraft for Lampang

Thailand to join with neighbors in regional tourism campaign

Thai Airways and Sofitel sign global air miles deal

TAT showcases Lanna lifestyle, tradition, art and culture in time for Songkran

Jump in tourism predicted

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Tourists wanting to experience the unique and enchanting Lanna lifestyle, tradition, art and culture of Thailand’s north now have a new opportunity to do so. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has prepared tourist trips to coincide with the Grand Lanna Songkran Festival. The celebrations include opportunities to explore the neighboring countries in the Great Mekong sub-region (GMS), boosting local tourism and travel.

Juthaporn Ruengron a-sa, Tourism Authority of Thailand’s deputy governor for domestic marketing, at the seminar held at the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel.

The new routes are in the eight upper northern provinces, and include Mae Hong Son, Phrae, Nan, Chiang Rai, Phayao, Lamphun and Lampang.

TAT said it wants to introduce tourists to the Lanna region and the other countries through which the Mekong River flows as a new tourism promotion.

Before it introduced the new routes to the public, TAT invited administrators, representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, Lion Club, Rotary Club, provincial industry federation and other companies to try out the pilot routes in early April.

Juthaporn Ruengron a-sa, deputy governor for the TAT’s domestic marketing said that the pilot scheme had been very well received and they had surveyed those who experienced the new routes. Juthaporn hoped that the low-cost airlines that have mushroomed in Thailand recently would encourage tourists to travel more, especially during the low season and on weekdays.

TAT has been analyzing tourism and income figures for the Songkran festival last year and estimates the number of tourists this year will increase by 10 percent around the kingdom. Income generated is expected to increase by 30 percent.

600,000 tourists are estimated to visit Bangkok during this Songkran festival, a 3 percent increase expected to bring in about 2.9 billion baht. However, the largest increase is expected in the North because of the attraction of Chiang Mai’s Grand Lanna Songkran Festival.


Cheaper skies open up

Low cost airlines lift the spirit of the travel industry

PATA

The boom in LCAs in the PATA region is going the same way as in North America and Europe. In the US, the aviation market was deregulated in 1978, leading to the formation of Southwest Airlines. Europe followed with its own deregulation in 1993.

It took another 10 years for mindsets to change sufficiently to realize that aviation had to be nourished to facilitate economic growth in Asia Pacific, which is divided by large geographical distances and tracts of water.

LCAs also went through a learning curve. In the early days, they were ignored, rejected as being undercapitalized and referred to as fly-by-night operators with restricted route networks. It was felt that air travel was not quite affordable by the masses.

They would pose no threat to the mainstream ‘legacy’ airlines that enjoyed government protection, were the ‘designated’ carriers in air services agreements and had priority when it came to the allocation of traffic rights. The legacy airlines also had the advantage of massive alliances and frequent flyer programs.

But the international economic and political crises of the last few years led to vigorous cycles of discounting in the leisure travel sector, and cost-cutting and downsizing in the corporate world.

Business travel was downgraded, especially on the short and medium-haul sectors. Because the ‘legacy’ airlines had a cost structure that could be trimmed only to a limited extent, the field was wide open for new entrants with a totally new cost-base.

Today, dozens of LCAs are flying all over the world. They include Southwest, JetBlue, ATA, Air Tran, WestJet, America West and Frontier in North America; Ryanair, EasyJet and German wings in Europe; Cebu Pacific, Tiger Airways, Valuair, Lion Airlines, Virgin Blue, Pacific Blue, OzJet, Freedom Air, One-Two-GO, Nok Air, Air Deccan and Jetstar in the PATA region.

After years of one crisis after another, the advent of low-cost airlines (LCAs) has helped lift spirits in the Asia Pacific travel industry. Also known as no-frills or low-fare airlines, their appearance and robust growth in a number of PATA countries are set to trigger a boom in intra-regional and domestic travel.

Effectively, LCAs are bringing regional air transportation down to the same level as buses and trains, and slotting themselves into the vast price gap that existed between surface and air transport. Their growth plans fit perfectly with small regional destinations’ desire for more aviation access, as well as national objectives to promote greater regional economic integration via free trade, upgraded infrastructure development and decongestion in the mainstream mega-cities.

The language now used to describe the impact of LCAs on the aviation industry - such as ‘revolution’ and ‘agent of change’ - applies equally well to their potential impact on travel and tourism. While some say it is democratizing travel by making air transport affordable for more people than ever before, others say it commoditizing travel by making it no different from any other product; soon to be available in supermarkets.

According to PATA’s aviation analyst Mr. K.C. Sim, “What is certain is that many will be swayed to travel more frequently and more impulsively to destinations served by LCAs. Long weekends will become gold mines on the calendar and the reasons for travel will become increasingly tied to the pursuit of individual whims and fancies. Niche segment stakeholders such as spas and golf course operators, dive site operators, shopping and culinary destinations or just simply rest-’n-relax resorts, stand to gain.”

This huge surge in aviation capacity has significant implications for Asia Pacific travel, especially when China (PRC) and India are included in the equation. Student and backpacker travel will boom. Money saved on transport can then be spent on shopping, spurring sales of handicrafts and other low-cost items, the income from which generally goes directly to local communities.

At the national level, this surge of LCA-driven travel will grow the economies of Asia’s secondary cities, creating jobs and business opportunities and helping to reduce migration into the mega-cities and all the social, environmental and financial problems that often ensue from that.

More jobs will be created in aviation, ranging from cabin crew to engineering and maintenance. Over time, national tourism organizations and the private sector will be forced to take a fresh look at how and where they spend marketing dollars, leading to a potential shift away from Japan, Europe and North America towards intra-regional sources.

In Asia Pacific Aviation Outlook 2004, Centre for Asia-Pacific Aviation (CAPA) managing director, Peter Harbison said, “It could and should be the best year ever for aviation. The signs ahead are positive. Liberalization of air services is accelerating rapidly and consumer sentiment is positive in most countries. Underlying economic conditions across the region are currently favorable in a way which has rarely occurred, with all countries synchronized in favorable growth patterns.”

Harbison continued, “In these circumstances, provided airlines manage capacity effectively, this growth should flow straight to the bottom line. It should also be good news for aircraft manufacturers, as profitability and demand coincide. Similarly, airports and the tourism industry should experience solid results. In this climate, the investment prospects for an array of airport privatizations across the region are correspondingly strong.”


No fishing for Pla Buek (giant catfish) during Chiang Rai Songkran

Miss Songkran contest also open to Laotian women

Chiang Khong district in Chiang Rai province is celebrating Songkran under the slogan “Pla Buek Guardianship” to conserve traditional art and culture and promote tourism in the district.

Nipon Jangjunt, Chiang Khong chief district officer, said that they would arrange the “Pla Buak Guardianship” between April 17-19 in co-operation with the local Palang Muanchon groups, and local administration organizations.

On April 17 there will be a longboat rowing competition in the categories of 25 and 10 oarsmen. The competition will be open to both Thai and Laos people. On the next day, a veneration ceremony for Pla Buek will be held, continuing a 10 year tradition, much loved by the local people.

On the 19th, a Miss Songkran beauty pageant will be held. For the first time, Laotian women will also participate in this beauty contest, to strengthen relations between Thailand and Laos along the Mekong River. This is in response to government policy.


Consumers push for wide- bodied aircraft for Lampang

P.B. Air’s 50 seaters too small for traveler numbers

Tossaporn Boonchan

Lampang Airport has responded to passengers demands for wide-bodied aircraft for safety, comfort and to accommodate the number of passengers. Currently P.B. Air service Lampang, having taken over the route from Thai Airways International in 2001.

Siripong Krungwong, director of Lampang Airport said P.B. Air schedules two flights daily - 7.30 a.m. and 5 p.m. However, with the increase in the number of air travelers, and especially at peak periods and holiday times, the service is inadequate.

From a survey conducted among passengers at Lampang Airport, 90 percent want P.B. Air to provide larger wide-bodied aircraft and to schedule more daily flights.

Lampang Airport has brought the results of this survey to P.B. Air, the Civil Aviation Department and to the deputy minister of transport and communications.


Thailand to join with neighbors in regional tourism campaign

Thailand is planning to bond with three other neighboring countries to launch a joint regional tourism campaign, according to Tourism and Sports Minister Sontaya Khunpluem. The quartet of nations will include Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Sontaya explained that under the proposed plan, the four countries will soon set up a joint committee tasked to take charge of the regional tourism promotion. “It’s likely that the joint permanent committee will be set up in April, or May”, he said.

To facilitate the project, roads will also be constructed or developed to link Thailand with other parts of the region, including the one between Mae Sot District in Thailand’s northwestern province of Tak and Myawaddy in Myanmar, and the one between Thailand’s northern province of Nan and Chaiburi in Laos.

The plan has real promise since each year over one million tourists visit Thailand before they leave for these neighboring countries. (TNA)


Thai Airways and Sofitel sign global air miles deal

PATA

Thai Airways International’s Royal Orchid Plus members will receive air miles at over 180 Sofitel hotels located in 52 countries worldwide. Guests staying at Sofitel hotels in Europe, Australia and the United States will earn 2,004 miles for each stay from now until May 31, 2004. Sofitel St James London is extending the offer until August 31, 2004. Guests staying in Sofitel hotels around Asia will earn 1,000 miles per stay until May 31, 2004. Starting June 1, 2004, guests will earn 500 miles for stays throughout the entire global Sofitel network. For further information visit: www.thaiairways.com or www.accorhotels-asia.com



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