TRAVEL & TOURISM
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

How does Chiang Mai compare with other tourist destinations?

Shop in the skies with Thai AirAsia

Two thousand air marshals for Chinese flights

TAT to offer cut-price tours as oil prices pinch

Airline war hots up

How does Chiang Mai compare with other tourist destinations?

Autsadaporn Kamthai

American Jack Kelly, consultant to J.E. Austin & Associates and the Kenan Institute Asia in Bangkok has spelt out some of the problems and solutions for Chiang Mai’s tourism. He made a high-tech presentation to the Informal Northern Thai Group at their meeting held at the Alliance Francaise in Chiang Mai on September 7. Approximately 40 visitors attended, including tourism-related entrepreneurs.

Jack Kelly (left) describes Chiang Mai’s tourism industry to participants in his talk at the Alliance Francaise.

Kelly allowed questions and comments during his talk on the “Chiang Mai Charm Cluster Situation Analysis and Strategic Plan”. He divulged statistics on the numbers of tourists in Chiang Mai and the average daily expenditure. He cited a benchmark analysis that showed a daily average expenditure of US$ 67 and a four-day stay. Compared with Bangkok and Phuket, it appears that tourists spend less money in Chiang Mai.

Even though tourists in Chiang Mai spend a higher daily average than in Bali (US$ 50) and Nepal (US$ 49), Chiang Mai compares unfavourably when considering the length of stay in Bali (6 days) and in Nepal (7.9 days). Furthermore, the average foreign tourist in Chiang Mai spends 2,753 baht per day, 27 percent less than the national average (3,748 baht).

Kelly did not want to go into depth about the problems in the tourism industry in Chiang Mai. But his ‘developed cluster’ concept targeted niche markets such as golf, spas and eco-tourism, to reposition Chiang Mai as a premium destination with world-class tourism services that maximize its rich cultural history, unique charm and hospitality.

One of the key findings of the benchmark study was that Chiang Mai should have its own marketing team or Tourism Promotion, Convention and Visitors Bureau. At present, there is no such effective marketing arm to serve and promote Chiang Mai as a tourist destination. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) markets Thailand effectively, but is not designed or equipped for Chiang Mai only. There should also be English language training for tourism professionals and a Chiang Mai web site.

However, during the talk, there were concerns about a decreasing quality of life and lack of a mass transportation system, considered the main obstacles to promoting Chiang Mai’s tourism and encouraging tourists to spend more days in the city and revisit it.


Shop in the skies with Thai AirAsia

Staff reporters

Thai AirAsia has introduced new in-flight services. Thai AirAsia claims it now has the most complete and exciting range of in-flight products of any low-cost carrier in Thailand. This ranges from serving an own food and beverage product line to fun and fashionable AirAsia merchandise and in-flight duty free items.

With the introduction of its in-flight duty free programme, now available on all international flights, Thai AirAsia features a range of duty free products including popular fragrances and cosmetics, watches and jewelry, fun gift items for adults and children and confectionary products for those with a sweet tooth. AirAsia’s first duty free catalogue includes over 50 products and a range of specialized “made in Thailand” products will be offered in the near future.

Thai AirAsia merchandise includes Thai AirAsia red and black polo shirts and hats. Also featured is a range of t-shirts. The collection line includes AirAsia model aircraft, thermos mugs, pens, key rings and other items.

Thai AirAsia offers a selection of food and beverage on every flight with their own brand “SnackAttack” prepared daily, exclusively for Thai AirAsia, and a range of sandwiches and snacks. AirAsia also provides hot and cold beverages on every flight, including coffee, juices and soft drinks, all sold at prices generally cheaper than at airports.


Two thousand air marshals for Chinese flights

The China Civil Aviation Bureau has announced that 2,000 air marshals have completed an intensive training program and have been deployed on over 1,000 domestic routes. Additional security personnel will be assigned to international flights and “sensitive domestic routes”.

Though trained in combat, emergency management and negotiation, the air marshals - in plainclothes, armed in some cases, and sitting inconspicuously among the passengers - will likely find themselves dealing with transgressions more common on Chinese flights than hijackings or other acts of terrorism: The China Youth Daily reports their main duties will be preventing passengers from making cell phone calls, smoking, and taking other people’s seats (TTG Asia)


TAT to offer cut-price tours as oil prices pinch

Holidays are often the first thing to fall by the wayside when rising oil prices force the public to tighten their belts. But the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) hopes to capitalize on the new era of economy and scrimping by joining hands with tour agencies to provide cut-price tours, in a bid to stimulate the domestic tourism market.

With support from Orient Thai Airlines, Aeon Thana Sinsap and Kasikorn Bank Public Company Limited the TAT is organizing tours on nine popular routes that are aimed to be ‘easy on the purse, easy on the mind’.

Destinations for the tours, which are designed to save both time and money, include the southern Phuket and Phi Phi islands, and the northern province of Chiang Mai. Prices start at just 4,990 baht exclusive of VAT. Not only are the prices low, but people who book places on the group tours will be given the chance to pay for their holiday in up to 24 installments. (TNA)


Airline war hots up

Gloves off between Thai AirAsia and Singapore’s Tiger Airways

Staff reporters

Thai AirAsia is going toe to toe with Singapore’s budget carrier, Tiger Airways, to protect its reputation of offering the lowest airfares in the region. A single trip between Bangkok and Singapore is being advertised by Thai AirAsia for travel between the capitals, from September 15 to October 15, for an 11 baht fare (or 49 Singapore cents), with certain conditions applying.

The timing of the announcement coincides with Tiger Airways offer of a single flight between the same two airports for S$ 1.00 (22 baht), again with conditions applying. Tiger Airways S$1 fare is only for flights to Bangkok from Sept 15-21; to Phuket from Sept 22-28; and to Hat Yai from Sept 29-Oct 5.

Despite the travel conditions applying to the extremely low price flight tickets, at face value it would be difficult to undercut the Thai AirAsia offer. “These fare discounts on the Singapore-Bangkok route are the lowest that the region has ever seen,” said Thai AirAsia CEO, Tassapon Bijleveld.

The conditions that apply to the Thai AirAsia discount tickets are firstly that bookings can only be made from September 9, onwards, and are only available on-line at www.airasia.com. All bookings must be made five days in advance of the requested travel dates. There are also only 5,000 seats being made available for the 30 day period, which equates to just over 40 seats per flight in either direction.

The additional charges that will apply to the rock bottom fare include 50 baht for administration fees, 50 baht for insurance, 50 baht in Thai passenger service charges and approximately 460 baht for airport tax in Singapore. Passengers leaving Thailand must also pay an airport tax on departure of 500 baht. However, this is still a very low fare, even with all the ‘add-ons’.

Thai AirAsia, a joint venture between PM Thaksin Shinawatra’s family company Shin Corp and Malaysia’s AirAsia Berhad, presently operates two daily flights connecting Bangkok and Singapore. The airline initially launched flights to Singapore in February this year, with a second service being introduced in March to cater to the demand.