HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Ayutthaya road show comes to Chiang Mai

Newly built dormitory in Baan Long Phe washed away

Chiang Mai to target healthcare tourism

Thai implements fuel surcharge

Ayutthaya road show comes to Chiang Mai

TAT wants northern provinces to visit

Phitsanu Thepthong and Autsadaporn Kamthai

Ayutthaya attracts nearly a million tourists every year, and the province would like even more to visit the ancient capital of Siam.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand, Central Office, Region 6 held a road show to promote travel to the central province at the Empress Hotel in Chiang Mai. The province’s tourism attractions include ancient remains just half an hour drive from Bangkok.

Ayutthaya Governor Somsak Kaewsuthi (right) presents a souvenir to Chalermsak Suranant, director of the TAT, Northern Office, Region 1, at the road show.

The head of the Ayutthaya Provincial Commerce Office, Suwaphan Malila told Chiangmai Mail that Ayutthaya fascinated visitors. It maintained primitive Chinese, Portuguese, and Japanese villages built by the mariners who came to Siam to trade.

He said that many foreigners visit Ayutthaya to see the ancient capital of Thailand, where Thai and Burmese troops once waged war on the backs of elephants, and where elephants at work can still be observed today.

Ayutthaya province has also become known for its OTOP (One Tambon One Product) goods, such as handmade Aranyik swords and kitchenware. The swords are produced at Tahchang by people originally from Laos. “The Aranyik sword is a popular souvenir from Ayutthaya, while the popular tourist attractions are the local cultures and traditions, buildings, elephant riding, and bicycling to view Ayutthaya town,” he said.

Chattan Kunchorn Na Ayutthaya, director of the TAT’s Region 6, said the main objective of the road show was to draw tourists from Chiang Mai to Ayutthaya to increase the number of visitors.

Its governor, Somsak Kaewsuthi, said Ayutthata was designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Ayutthaya is about 417 years old and was ruled by 33 kings. The province’s revenue is mainly generated from the industrial, agricultural and tourism sectors. “Ayutthaya is different from other provinces which have ancient sites because its people live among those sites leading to the charm of the province,” said the governor.

Tourism related hoteliers, restaurateurs and souvenir shop owners traveled up to Chiang Mai as part of the road show to network and promote themselves among Chiang Mai entrepreneurs, the local media and the public.

Chiang Mai was chosen as the first stop for the road show because the province is the second largest in the country. Its target is to increase the number of Thai and foreign tourists to Ayutthata by at least three percent, or 700,000 persons.

The TAT director said it had asked central government for 28 million baht for its four year promotion plan. The TAT plans to next take the road show to Tokyo in Japan and Shanghai in China during August and September.

Newly built dormitory in Baan Long Phe washed away

Funds urgently needed to rebuild

Annelie Hendriks
(Board member FERC)

The flash flood three weeks ago in Baan Long Phe has washed away the new dormitory donated by the Samsara and Wild Geese Dutch Foundations along with the local Foundation for Education for Rural Children (FERC).

Another photo of what was once Long Phe Witaya schoolyard and building.

The primary school Long Phe Witaya is very isolated, located in the mountains of Mae Sariang near the river Naam Ngaw. On June 20 at 11 a.m. the flash floods caused by five days of continuous rain and illegal logging swept away the poor village including the primary school and the newly built dormitory. Luckily the flood did not occur in the middle of the night. The children were just having their lunch and the teachers were already worried by the high level of the water. Suddenly they heard a thunderous noise. The teachers shouted to the children to run as fast as they could to higher locations in the mountains. It was a matter of seconds and just in time. Minutes later nothing was left of the village and the school. Everything they once owned was gone.

There’s a river out there.

The school has 138 children and 4 teachers. It is so isolated that the dormitory had to be built with the help of elephants which was the only way to transport construction materials to the site of the school. The dormitory had cost 150,000 baht.

After the flood, soldiers helped the villagers and the children to construct temporary housing and school facilities from bamboo. They also delivered food, water, clothes and blankets.

That used to be the school building...

By a lucky coincidence, the furniture had not yet been delivered. This can now be used for the new dormitory which will be built.

The Foundation for Education of Rural Children (FERC) would like to build a new dormitory on a nearby and higher location in the mountains and wants to inform the public that the school needs now urgently needs water purification equipment. FERC is able to donate 75,000 baht but would like to raise another 100,000 baht (2,000 Euro or 2,500 dollars) within the next weeks. The board members of FERC would be very grateful if the readers of Chiangmai Mail would be willing to donate some money for this cause. The bank account of the Foundation for Education for Rural children (Samsara) is Siam Commercial Bank 549-3-02824-3. FERC is a legally established NGO in Thailand.

Chiang Mai to target healthcare tourism

Private sector and TAT working together

TAT News

Thailand’s northern province of Chiang Mai is stepping up efforts to get its fair share of the market in the booming travel healthcare industry. Promotional plans now being formulated stress drawing upon the strong traditions of North Thailand’s unique culture, local wisdom and knowledge to bolster the spas and health treatments which are estimated to have a total business potential of 2.4 billion baht a year. In order to capitalize on the trend for more prevention and less cure, the plan stresses greater use of non-chemical herbal products and supplementary food made by local people, all certified by experts to ensure that they meet international standards.

The promotion plan is in line with the government’s policy to boost Chiang Mai as a centre for travel and tourism and aviation throughout North Thailand and the Greater Mekong Sub-region. In addition to its high quality, low cost medical, dental and therapeutic services, Chiang Mai is becoming increasingly well known for its medical check-up and spa facilities.

Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) deputy governor for international marketing, Phornsiri Manoharn said, “Healthcare tourism is an important aspect of the TAT’s international marketing plan which has a significant focus on niche markets like medical check-ups and spa.” She said TAT is assisting the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Commerce to implement a national strategy to develop Thailand’s strong potential in the field of health and wellness. Destinations targeted for the ‘blitz’ plan are Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Samui.

Chiang Mai has about 10 private hospitals with a total of 2,250 beds and 700 doctors. The hospitals are estimated to be operating at only 50% capacity overall. The city has 77 dental clinics which in 2003 had combined revenues of about 420 million baht. Chiang Mai also has more than 30 spas which generate an estimated annual revenue of about 300 million baht. It is also becoming a centre for traditional massage, with more than 100 massage centres employing more than 1,000 workers and a combined annual revenue estimated at 500-600 million baht.

According to Chiang Mai Provincial Public Health Department deputy chief, Dr. Paisarn Thanyawinitkul, “We are working with the private sector and TAT to come up with packages offering health check-up programmes, spa treatment, and Thai massage.”

He said that as these products develop, the Ministry of Public Health will have a critical role to play in ensuring delivery of high standards of service and care. “We have set up guidelines and measures for the private sector in order to build these standards, create new business for the province, generate income, develop human resources and add value to local herbal products.”

Manufacturers of herbal medicine in Chiang Mai and the surrounding region also have set up a group to raise the quality of locally made products to global standards. The health office is planning to establish the strengths of each of the Chiang Mai hospitals, and then develop them to attract target markets from the neighbouring countries and South Asia, as part of the short-term promotion plan. This will later be expanded to include more international markets as the facilities and human resources capabilities improve.

Dr. Paisan said the public health office also has announced new measures for standard spas, to be effective July 11. The measures are divided into five categories and designed to regulate the location, operator, service provider, service and safety.

Spa operators in Chiang Mai are being encouraged to register at the Chiang Mai Provincial Public Health Office, or contact tel. 053 894 792-19 ext. 125, 225 during office hours, or the Thai Lanna Spa Association at tel. 053 854 778, for further information.

Thai implements fuel surcharge

Thai Airways International Public Company Limited announced that it has implemented a fuel surcharge on international flights, due to the continual increase in fuel prices, effective from June 15 onwards.

Suthep Suebsantiwongse, THAI’s commercial executive vice president, said that world fuel prices have been rising continuously and have now reached prices higher than ever experienced in the past. Due to this, the airlines’ fuel related expenses have increased drastically, resulting in some airlines implementing a fuel surcharge that is added to the airfare on each flight sector. THAI recently obtained approval from the Department of Transport to implement a fuel surcharge on international flight operations.

The fuel surcharge will be implemented on all types of tickets for THAI international flights, but not on domestic flights, with the following rates:

- Regional and Middle East routes will be charged a fuel surcharge of 7.50 USD or around 300 baht per flight coupon.

- Intercontinental routes, including Australia and New Zealand, will be charged a fuel surcharge of 15 USD or around 600 baht per flight coupon.

The fuel surcharge is applied with tickets issued from June 15 onwards. However, when the fuel price situation returns to normal, THAI will withdraw the fuel surcharge and advise the public.