HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Rosy future predicted for Chiang Mai expansion

Thai spa businesses do not fear rising airfares

Thai wine growers told to buck up before launch of FTA with Australia

Rosy future predicted for Chiang Mai expansion

But infrastructure development worries

Saksit Meesubkwang

The real estate business in Chiang Mai has grown since the beginning of the year, reports Watchara Tantranont, president of the Real Estate Entrepreneur Association of Chiang Mai and Lamphun.

Giving an overview to the Chiang Mai business sector, he said the reasons behind this included the concept of the city becoming an aviation hub, construction of an international convention center, and a variety of tourist attractions, especially the Chiang Mai Zoo’s two pandas.

Institutions of higher education, such as Chiang Mai University, Mae Jo University and other private sector universities had attracted students from neighboring countries like Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar. Health care facilities in Chiang Mai, including government and private hospitals, as well as other services such as foot massage or spa parlors, also attracted people from other places.

An increasing number of people from other provinces and other countries had bought land and had houses built in real estate projects in Chiang Mai. Foreign nationals had over 10 percent of houses in such projects.

There were 20,000 foreigners residing permanently in the Upper North, which included Asians - Japanese and Koreans, Europeans - Germans, Italians, and French as well as Australians.

The real estate business could be divided into two sectors: residential estates and areas for commercial purposes. In the former, several condominiums were developed along Huay Kaew Road.

There had been a revitalization in commercial estate, evident by the construction of many dormitories and mini-stores. In addition, more foreigners, especially Japanese, had come to do business in Chiang Mai.

Interest rates were at acceptable levels for buyers, and homes were affordable. In the next three years, Watchara predicted that at least 300,000 people from other provinces, and foreigners, would come to buy houses and land.

More Thais from the South will move to the North and buy houses “Because Chiang Mai is the center of so many things”, he said. People having a keen eye on business opportunities would rush in, he believed.

Watchara conceded a major concern was that the city might grow too fast. Its infrastructure and public utilities, such as water and the electric power and road systems, would not be able to cope.

Unless these issues were resolved simultaneously with the economic growth, some problems will certainly arise, Watchara predicted.

Thai spa businesses do not fear rising airfares

Thailand’s spa businesses believe that rising airfares are unlikely to affect the number of tourists visiting Thailand for spa and other health services. Foreign tourists attracted by Thailand’s spa and health facilities are a niche group who are relatively well-off, and unlikely to be affected by the increase in airfare as a result of rising world oil prices, according to the president of the Confederation of Thai Spa, Paiboon Pilanth-Ovas.

Thai spa businesses have been booming recently due to three advantages - much lower prices than rivals in other countries, better services with the touch of Thai hospitality, and a very competitive quality of both services and materials used.

The sector is currently growing at 30% this year, compared to last year, and its earnings are valued at nearly four billion baht. The Thai spa and health industry has also helped generate 20 billion baht in revenue through related businesses such as traditional Thai cloth, local herbal products, and other agricultural products used and being sold at the country’s spa centers.

The government should help Thailand’s spa businesses upgrade their standards so as to be able to continue to attract tourists in the longer run, Paiboon urged. The government and private sector should also work together to build a special Thai spa concept, and even sell it as a franchise abroad since this would be an effective way to promote the Thai spa service world-wide, he suggested.

The Thai government has already announced plans to develop the country’s spa and health services. The aim is to make Thailand an Asian hub for these services. (TNA)

Thai wine growers told to buck up before launch of FTA with Australia

A leading research center has called on Thailand’s wine producers to rush to upgrade the quality of their products to win greater international acceptance amid fears that the liberalization of trade between Thailand and Australia next year could see a rapid decline in the domestic market share of Thai wine.

In its report, the Kasikorn Research Center (KRC) warned that the enforcement of the Thai-Australian Free Trade Area (FTA) Agreement on 1 January 2005 would see an influx of Australian wine. Noting that Australian wine had already become the second most popular wine in Thailand after that from France, KRC called on Thai wine producers to upgrade the quality of their products as a matter of urgency.

Thailand’s future FTA deals with other countries including wine-growing nations such as the United States and New Zealand, could serve to compound the difficulties faced by Thai wine growers. By upgrading the taste and quality of Thai wine, Thai vineyards could simultaneously work to maintain their domestic market share, and win over new export channels opened up by the liberalization of trade, the report said. (TNA)