Redeveloping and repositioning Chiang Mai
The Informal Northern Thai Group provided the forum for
Shane K Beary of Track of the Tiger to present his ‘Proposal to Redevelop
and Reposition Chiang Mai for Tourism’ to an audience that looked
convinced by the end of the discourse.
The question and answer session highlighted the fact that
most foreign residents were convinced that the cosmetic changes, and
attractions currently planned for the city would fall far short of what is
needed to achieve the government’s stated objectives in terms of improving
the city for both residents and tourists.
Most also agreed with the assumption made by Shane Beary,
that Chiang Mai’s infrastructure, pollution, and other cheap destination
related problems would only be overcome when the big investors (private or
public sector) were onboard a plan for change.
To get them onboard, they must be shown a plan that was
workable, and promised a high return on investment. Several senior
government officials, key tourism industry players, and heads of tourism and
commerce associations who have read the proposals responded positively.
At their suggestion, Shane Beary is now canvassing the
opinion of the various stakeholders and the general public, so that he may
then submit any comments to the authorities as a supporting document. Your
comments on the full proposal are therefore welcome. (The full proposal is
available in PDF format from Shane Beary on [email protected]
The proposal in brief:
Step 1 – Establish the Ping river market
Establish a 3 km long 6 meter wide floating walkway,
ideally along both sides of the river as it runs through the heart of the
Using modern technologies, moor environmentally friendly
river barges of a classic ‘rice barge’ design, as shops, cafes’ and
entertainment venues along the length of the floating walkways, creating a
‘unique selling proposition’, the Ping River Market.
Turnstile type entry gates to each end of the floating
walkway would facilitate entry fee collections. The turnstiles would also
allow the venue to be properly policed in terms of overall safety, and with
regard to the control of underage drinking/drug use/prostitution etc.
By having some barges double as stadium styled seating
units, (on a part time basis) the entire floating market complex can become
a special ‘venue’ hosting floating parades, Loy Krathong, Songkran and
many others to be created, all capable of generating huge revenues for the
city if properly managed and policed.
Establish ‘park and ride’ stations 2 km distant from
each corner of the ‘Ping River Market’.
Ban roadside parking in the riverfront area, to force
people to use public transport (songtaews first, trams later) running on a
circular route between the ‘park and ride’ stations and the Ping River
Market. (Example: The Municipal sports stadium.)
Use a combination of financial incentives and social
restrictions (soft loans, early closing hours), to entice tourist related
businesses to relocate from the city center to the new Ping River Market.
Have the developer/government design and build some of
the barges and lease them out to potential clients ensuring a good business
Provide solid argument as to the business sense in being
located in a ‘promoted area’ as opposed to one ridden with access and
Step 4. Redevelop the downtown area
Redevelop the ‘reclaimed downtown areas’ converting
ugly buildings into three or four floor parking garages, banning roadside
parking and turning pavements into tree lined promenades.
Provide development funding for building owners willing
to refurbish or reconstruct their buildings in keeping with an accepted La
Na design code (to be established by the city’s architects) and to a
prepared zoning plan. (Value doubles just on plan acceptance, and again on
These buildings can then become either owner operated or
leased boutique outlets, sidewalk cafes, and accommodation clusters where
perhaps three or four boutique style hotels share common public areas and
Step 5. –Make Chiang Mai a regional arts and crafts
center for the Greater Mekong Sub-region. Bring in raw, semi-finished, and
finished product from China, Burma, Laos and Vietnam.
Bring in craftsmen and artists from all over the region
and establish product research and development centers, art schools and
colleges in Chiang Mai.
Fund the training and RandD programmes with scholarships
with revenue provided by toll gate access to the river market.
Re-invent the handicrafts industry, inject creativity and
build a new export market on the re-branded products.
Step 6 – Upgrade and extend the tourism product to
cover the low as well as the high seasons.
Develop the higher altitude areas in the hills/mountains
around Chiang Mai into ‘all year round’ long stay resorts, health
retreats and spas, golf courses, back to nature hill stations. These
products to be target marketed at the more affluent tourist, the meetings
and incentive business, and the retiree market.
Step 7 – Upgrade the promotion and marketing of Chiang
Establish a ‘Promotional Bureau’ for Chiang Mai,
funded by toll access fees, tourism taxes, and rent revenue from river
Use the Promotional Bureau to promote Chiang Mai the city, its
universities, its culture, its export product, a retirement or long stay
destination, its IT industry, its agriculture and its aspiration to become a
hub for the GMS, to the world.
Valentine’s Day elephant weddings
Valentine’s Day is the day for lovers, and a wonderful
date to be married. You can now have a Lanna style marriage on an
elephant’s back, thanks to the Tourism Authority of Thailand TAT), the
Elephant Institute in Lampang (under the patronage of Her Highness Princess
Kallayaniwattana), and the Lampang Forest Industry Division.
This event aims to both promote Thai tourism and enhance
Lampang’s reputation among foreign tourists and to preserve Thai-Lanna
traditions. To sponsor loving relations, the Lampang governor is, for the
fourth time, inviting couples to get married on an elephant’s back. In
2005 the ceremony will fall on Valentine’s Day and be held at the Thai
Elephant Camp Center on Chiang Mai–Lampang Road, Lampang province, from 2
p.m. until 9 p.m.
Whilst not an ancient ritual, marriages on an elephant
dates from when a Japanese couple who worked as volunteer mahouts at the
Lampang Elephant Center in the last century. Impressed by their charges,
they decided to hold their marriage on an elephant. It is believed that they
were the first couple to do so. Now TAT and the Lampang Elephant Camp Center
helped to preserve the tradition.
Interested couples can ask for more information at the
TAT northern region, Chiang Mai (053 248 607), or the Lampang Elephant Camp
Center (054 228 108). Numbers are limited and the brides and grooms must
register and learn elephant language for two days at the camp to familiarize
the animals with them.
In one of the most attractive marriage events in the
world, This Lanna marriage tradition features a two kilometer long
procession that first goes to the bride’s home to ask for her parents
permission. After the wrist binding ceremony, the brides will be sent to
their grooms on the elephants. The ceremony will end with the usual wedding
Industry tell Phuket not to panic and not to dump rates
Confidence is the problem, not cost
Wrisney Tan, TTG Asia
European buyers have backed calls by Thai Hotels
Association (THA) for Phuket hotels not to dump rates even though many are
experiencing only 10 percent occupancy.
THA secretary-general Prakit Chinamourphong, in a
circular to members this week, wrote, “Drawing tourists by reducing prices
by 50 to 70 percent will not help. It will only destroy the pricing
structure, and it will be very difficult when we want to bring back the
Buyers interviewed say they expect a lull for Phuket,
lasting at least six months to a year, not because travelers are afraid the
disaster may happen again, but because they feel bad making merry in a place
where so many lives were lost.
Italy-based Gruppo Alpitour product manager, Cecilia
Dorigo, said, “Deluxe properties have got good standing, they should not
go down on their rates. It is usually the smaller ones that might. But there
is no need to panic because the fact that we are here is proof that we will
support the region, so let’s wait. The summer season is coming and we
would be able to see some movements then.”
Germany-based Incentive Management owner, Yvonne Otto,
said Germans were not keen on Phuket now and she did not expect the market
to come back for at least another year. “I don’t see a chance for the
market to return no matter how attractive the price and no matter how we try
to sell the destination to them. However they are not totally giving up on
Thailand but going to other places such as Koh Samui, Bangkok and areas in
Geneva-based Fert & Cie shareholder, Jean-Claude
Fert, said: “Be patient, wait for six months for the Swiss market to come
back, don’t dump rates because money is not the issue – they will not
Dusit Laguna Resort Phuket director of sales and
marketing, Andrew Cornelio, said hoteliers were divided into two camps.
“The first camp feels they should dump their rates since there is no
business anyway. The second feel confidence, not rates, is the issue because
without that, no one would come even if rooms were free.”
“I think the five-star hotels are quite determined to
hang on until the low season starts in April when the rates are usually up
to 50 percent lower than the high season. It is the others that may start
dropping. We are doing what we can to target the domestic market to support
and sustain the business.”
The “impressive” turnout at the ATF is a sign all is
not lost, says Berjaya Hotels and Resorts Division acting head, Lucinda
Semark. She urged suppliers tempted to dump rates to invest in
communications and offer value-added packages instead.
“Just dropping prices would be negative for everybody
and would hurt the recovery in the long run. We should get working on good
multi-destination packages. Strategically we need to drive revenue by
letting travelers experience things they would otherwise not experience.
THAI Offers Special Andaman Fares
From now until March 31, 2005, Thai Airways International
(THAI) is offering more special domestic fares for the Andaman Sun Sand and
Sea package for passengers traveling with THAI in Economy Class to
destinations in Southern Thailand.
Vasing Kittikul, THAI’s Executive Vice President,
Commercial, said this special promotion is in response to the Government’s
policy to attempt to revive and regain the confidence of tourists traveling
Krabi, Phuket, and Trang in the South, that were not affected by the recent
tidal waves, as well as to restore public confidence in Thailand’s tourism
industry. The promotions include: roundtrip domestic airfares from Bangkok
to Krabi, Phuket, and Trang are 4,200 baht, 3,800 baht and 4,400 baht,
respectively. Passengers from the North and Northeast to Krabi, Phuket and
Trang will receive a 30 per cent discount from the normal fare. For more
information, please contact Tel. 0-2628 2000 and 0-2280 0060.
These special Economy Class fares (excluding airport tax
and insurance surcharge) are available for flights departing from Bangkok,
Khon Kaen, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Pitsanuloke, Udon Thani, and Ubon
Ratchathani to Krabi, Phuket and Trang via Bangkok. Passengers are able to
make an overnight stop in Bangkok and must hold a confirmed one-way or
Royal Orchid Plus members may also accumulate mileage
from this promotion. From now until 31 August 2005, ROP members who wish to
travel to Krabi, Phuket, or Trang need only 12,000 instead of the usual
15,000 accumulated mileage in exchange for one-way travel in Economy Class.
One-way travel in Business Class needs 16,000 accrued mileages instead of
For more information and reservations, please contact
THAI’s Sales Office at Tel. 0-2628 2000 or 0-2280-0060 or visit THAI’s
website at www.thaiairways.com.
Mekong tourism boost
Caroline Boey, TTG Asia
A tourism integration master plan for the Greater Mekong
Sub region (GMS) is being developed by Asia Pacific Projects (APP). It
includes the creation of a distinctive branding for the grouping, comprising
Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Yunnan, China.
GMS wants a bigger slice of tourism in ASEAN; its
partners to speed up tourism development include UNESCO, ESCAP, the World
Tourism Organization and the Asian Development Bank.
Arrivals to the sub-region are expected to rise from 15
million in 2004 to 47 million by 2015. A seven man APP task force, headed by
its chairman and director, Ludwig Rieder, has been conducting meetings with
the respective stakeholders to determine infrastructure and software
APP’s marketing and product development consultant,
Renton de Alwis, is attending ATF to gather feedback on how GMS can get its
“rightful” place in the ASEAN framework.
Chiang Mai tourism projections
In this post-tsunami period, some tourists are still
afraid of traveling to the south and have, instead, changed their
destination to the north, especially Chiang Mai.
Junnapong Saranak, the director of Tourism Authority of
Thailand, Northern Region 1 said, “In the first three months of this year,
there will still be an increase depending on the destination change of the
tourists. Some of them change because the airlines or tour companies cannot
refund their money, so they are asked to change their travel plans and go
north. Some of them do it voluntarily because they love Thailand. When the
situation is questionable in the south, they go north instead. We cannot
definitely state the numbers of tourists visiting as we have to wait until
after the first quarter. After March, an analysis of the number of tourists
visiting the north will be made to see whether there were less than last
year. These numbers will also tell us whether the situation in the south has
affected tourism in the north or not.”
“The beginning of this year is considered positive.
Some marketing plans for tourism have to be put in place and all tour
companies and hotels hold activities for the Chinese New Year, Flower
Festival and Songkran. However, an important attraction for tourists is the
“Green Season” during June–August. Some discussion among the Chiang
Mai tourism board and private organizations revealed that tourism with
health services will be promoted with spas, hot springs and other health
care services. TAT and the four northern offices have proposed an idea for
the campaign “Travel to the North for Good Health” beginning this March.
Another prospect is golf in Chiang Mai which has five or six golf courses as
the selling point. At this moment, the Night Golf Course on the Chiang
Mai-Lamphun road is in preparation and opens at the end of January. The
night safari will open in April. It is considered that Chiang Mai night life
is increasing and becoming more colorful and it is anticipated that after
the first three months of this year, more tourists will come to Chiang Mai
because the province has an inherent charm.”
Boonlert Perela, former president of the Chiang Mai
Tourism and Business Association, said, “On the whole, the disturbed
situation reported by worldwide mass media created an unsafe image of
tourism in the whole country. The tsunami catastrophe, however, is
exceptional. Some tourists who had reserved trips to the south decided not
to visit Thailand at all. Some canceled the trip to Phuket but still
traveled to Thailand, some to Chiang Mai. Most chose to travel to other
seaside attractions, such as Kho Samui, Hua Hin or Cha-Am. As for Chiang
Mai, the situation is not quite clear yet. In fact, Chiang Mai will have
more negative effects than positive ones as it is clearly seen that there is
a drop in the number of tourists and tourist migration from Scandinavian and
Vorapong Muchaotai, president of Thai Hotels Association,
Northern Chapter stated that cancellations were less than 1 percent because
tourists had already decided on their destination. Package tour groups that
cover many provinces in a trip around Thailand had some slight effect.
“The location of the city makes tourists consider it is
safe from any danger or catastrophe. Business growth in the first three
months could increase by 10 percent compared to the same period last year
because more people in Thailand travel in the north rather than to countries
“Seaside tourism can attract Chinese or other Asian
country tour groups. In the north, tourists from Europe are the main factor
of tourism. New five star hotels have a high rate of room occupancy. It is a
good sign that the big spending customers are now becoming interested in
“The hotel association held a meeting with concerned
government divisions and the nine airlines to cooperate with TAT to help
eliminate the low season. Campaigns and activities are being planned during
May – September. The highlights will be shown in the “All Events in One
Basket” style, which will be promoted in road shows in Hong Kong, Taipei,
and in Middle East countries.
“An evaluation of the hotel business shows that as the
service providers base expands, income may be around 40 billion baht this
year since it was 38 billion baht in 2004 and 37 billion baht in 2003.
According to the Chiang Mai Provincial Tourism Strategy, the target in 2008
is to reach 70 billion baht as the night safari will then be fully open. In
summary, Chiang Mai tourism is moving slowly but never steps back,”
THAI’s activities at Suvarnabhumi Airport
Thai Airways International (THAI) held a press briefing on
its investments at the Suvarnabhumi Airport, chaired by Kobchai Srivilas,
THAI’s Senior Executive Vice President, Corporate Planning and Information
Technology Services Department.
Kobchai Srivilas said that the Thai government plans to
create a “new town” in the vicinity of Suvarnabhumi, with a policy for
the Airports of Thailand to provide temporary housing for those who will be
working at the Suvarnabhumi Airport.
The Thai government also plans to build “Suvarnabhumi
City” with a complete transportation system and all facilities. To that
end, THAI signed an agreement with the Electricity Generating Authority of
Thailand to be responsible for the re-location of THAI’s equipment to the
Chokchai Panyayong THAI’s Vice President, Project Development at the
New Bangkok International Airport said that as of 4 January 2005, the
overall progress in designing and constructing THAI’s buildings is at
around 75 percent completed, though some sections are trailing, with the
Operations Center building only at 43 percent. The Cargo and Mail Commercial
building is at 76 percent, Catering Services at 85 percent; Aircraft
Maintenance Center at 80 percent and Ground Support Equipment Services
building is at 76 percent. The construction of THAI’s buildings is
scheduled to be finished by March 2005 for system testing and completed by
29 September 2005.