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THAI president addresses Skål Meeting in Chiang Mai

3rd traditional Dutch herring party

THAI president addresses Skål Meeting in Chiang Mai

Chiangmai Mail Reporters
Photos:Nopniwat Krailerg

Kanok Abhiradee, a veteran in the Thai tourism industry for more than 20 years and President of Thai Airways International (THAI), was the guest of honor and speaker at the 4th meeting of Skål International Chiang Mai and North Thailand, held at the Four Seasons Resort in Chiang Mai on June 23.

Sun Subsaeng, President of Skål International Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand thanked Kanok Abhiradee on behalf of the members.

In his speech in front of 45 enthusiastic Skål members and visitors, Kanok focused on the 45 years of THAI history and singled out the high level of competition between airlines in Thailand, because of the present open sky policy.

Developing Thailand as the aviation hub of Southeast Asia with the ambitious New Bangkok International Suvarnabhumi Airport in the pipeline is among the priorities of the Royal Thai Government. However Kanok made it clear that there is also potential for the regional aviation hub of Chiang Mai, which can service millions of tourists from Europe and some emerging destinations in Laos, Vietnam, China, Bangladesh and Myanmar with more aggressive promotion after some more ‘homework’. He promised the Skål members that he will be among the leaders when it comes to bring back the Lanna feel and touch, to make Chiang Mai more popular for tourists.

Doing business amongst friends is one of the main goals of Skål members who promote global tourism. (From left) Jason Friedman (Four Seasons Resorts), Anne Schoch and Marc Dumur (‘The Legend Boutique River Resort and Spa’ Chiang Rai)

Interesting to note is that there is a direct flight from Chiang Mai to Phuket, but no direct flight back to Chiang Mai, which the president of THAI promised to look into. Phuket is suffering in the wake of the December 26 tsunami and an early recovery is in question. Asians fear the spirits of the dead people there, while Europeans fear the hard facts of science. Can there be a repetition of the tragedy?

(From left) Anchalee Kalmapijit (Maesa Elephant Camp), Jessica Brown (Marketing Wind and Fire), Wanassanan Krainara (Operation Director Wind and Fire) with Armin Schoch (Impulse Travel) in the background.

Finally, Kanok highlighted the recent developments at THAI and mentioned that 22 new airplanes are coming and 26 old planes will be refurbished. The newly introduced Bangkok-New York flight has the fastest record of 16 hours and 50 minutes using the Airbus A340. Being an active member of Star Alliance, THAI will look into direct flights to Australia and New Zealand as well as sponsoring Vietnam Airlines and Jet Air in India.

The next meeting of Skål will be held at ‘The Legend Boutique River Resort and Spa’ in Chiang Rai over the last weekend in July. Membership of Skål is open to managers or executives directly involved in tourism management, travel and tour operators and agencies, tourism organizations, governments and non-government tourism councils, hotels, convention centers, travel media and there is even a young Skål which helps junior executives and tourism students entering the industry.

All smiles when the guest of honor arrived at the Four Seasons Resort in Chiang Mai. (From left) Michael Vogt, MD Chiangmai Mail; Kanok Abhiradee, President of Thai Airways International (THAI); Andrew Harrison, General Manager of the Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai and David Thomas from Wanna Tours.

The Four Seasons sponsored a cocktail reception for guests and members.

(From left) Suchart Chancharoenkul (Dhara Dhevi Destinations), Sureethip Gantawong (Chiangmai No. 1 Tours), Chompunut Israsena (Four Seasons director of marketing), Wanna Thomas (Wanna Tours), and Wanassanan Krainara (Operation Director Wind and Fire).

Skål Northern Thailand is international on a high level. (From left) Tom Sexton, Mohamad Jesr (Lotus Hotel Chiang Mai) and Reinhard Hohler (Travel Writer).

A four course dinner, ending with Grapes and Grappa following a recipe from Chef Claudio’s Italian grandmother, was thoroughly enjoyed by the diners.

Future plans for a Chiang Mai promotion for the development of high yield passengers, increasing the length of stay and the promotion of cultural heritage.

3rd traditional Dutch herring party

Sandy Clark

The traditional Dutch herring party goes back a long way and as it is the most eaten fish in the Netherlands, Arie J.M. de Keijzer, Dutch general manager of the Rydges Amora Tapae Hotel, staged his third party to welcome the herring season.

Captain Arie J.M. de Keijzer with Miss Netherlands cutting off the first herring from the helicopter.

The party started with a bang as a helicopter delivered the first herrings to the poolside, welcomed by a marching band and hundreds of onlookers who began laughing when GM Arie freed the herring from the helicopter and started feeding ‘Miss Netherlands’ who dutifully swallowed the first bite.

On May 31, this year the season was officially opened in Scheveningen with the auction of the first caught herrings. This first barrel brought in 5,200 Euro, which is around 2.5 million baht. As tradition requires, this money was donated to charity and in 2005 the lucky recipient was the Richard Krajicek foundation which supports sport for needy children in the Netherlands.

Just open your mouth and try it! Newlyweds Wim Fagel, GM of Amari Rincome Hotel and his wife Pinkaew on her way to getting accustomed to Dutch traditions.

Arie de Keijzer thanked Rudy van den Berg from Horeca, Chiang Mai’s hotel and restaurant food supplier, for all his help and sponsorship as without him it would not have been possible to stage this event. He said, “At the moment herring is being sold in the Netherlands for 2.5 Euro per piece which equals 125 baht, but with the help of Horeca, it was possible to hold this night and allow you to have your taste of Dutch tradition for less than that.”

In his outgoing and lively way, GM (and MC of the night) Arie staged a Dutch herring drinking competition. The participants had to start with a glass of beer, one salted herring and wash it down with a Genever served as ‘dessert’. After several rounds plus the semi-final, the winner for 2005 was ‘Stefanie’ from France, residing in Chiang Mai, a woman who bravely swallowed beers, herrings and the liqueur faster than any of the men to win a stay at Rydges Amora Beach Resort in Phuket with her family. Worth the hangover.

Dutch costumed Thai maidens waving the nine flags of the nations bordering the North Sea, a marching band plus a huge crowd waited for the herring.

The marching band played easy listening music from the 50s to the 90s during dinner at the pool roof top of the Rydges Amora Tapae Hotel.

People were goggle-eyed over what was happening on stage.

As international as it can get, the first round of the lady herring eating competition. First the beer, than the herring and at the end the liquor. (From left) Miss Netherlands, Stefanie from France and Mikka from Japan.

They really came to compete, (from left) the winner of the 2004 competition, Michael; the runner up from the 2004 competition, Holm and Swedish national Nicolas. You can see that it was not easy to swallow the herrings at the end of a string.

Chiang Mai’s restaurateurs know where good food is served and showed up in full force. (Right) Eckard Schutte, better known as ‘Gypsy’, from the Grillstation and his friend Teddy Bertsch.

Roll them in onions first before letting them disappear down your throat.

The man who helped to make this evening possible, Rudy van den Berg from Horeca with his wife and daughter Nathalie, having fun with Italian Stefano from ‘La Gondola’.