Vol. V No. 23 - Saturday June 3, - June 9, 2006
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TRAVEL & TOURISM
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Government outlines latest tourism project

Eco-Tourism Fair in Vientiane

Las Vegas Sands to build Singapore’s first casino

Government outlines latest tourism project

But nothing really new

Preeyanoot Jittawong
Phirome Simasathian, deputy permanent secretary to the Minister of Tourism and Sports provided details of the government’s latest tourism projects at a conference held at Chiang Mai Hills Hotel, attended by governors and representatives of organizations concerned with tourism in the Upper-Northern provinces.

Phirome Simasathian, deputy permanent secretary of Minister of Tourism and Sports.
Phirome said that the Minister of Tourism and Sports considers tourism to be an important part of the strategy of economic development for everyone. Development of the tourism industry could bring extra income to all sectors of the population, (hopefully) halting the decline in tourist revenue that occurred in 2005 due to several external factors; including the world economic situation, rebellion and consumer behavior, and internal aspects such as bird flu and violence in the Deep South.
The National board of tourism committee will endeavor to formulate tourism strategies during 2006 to 2008, with a vision of developing Thailand to be the hub of Asian tourism. These far-reaching plans will emphasize nature and culture, to develop tourism places of Thailand to achieve their full potential, at the same time conserving natural resources and maintaining local lifestyles. 61 projects are involved with a predicted budget of 63,253.71 million baht.
Considering that the world economic situation is not improving, rebellion is world-wide, and internal aspects such as violence in the Deep South is continuing, the government has given itself in a very difficult task.


Eco-Tourism Fair in Vientiane

By Reinhard Hohler
After having successfully organized the Mekong Tourism Investment Summit in Luang Prabang at the end of March this year, the Lao National Tourism Administration (LNTA) is spearheading the next event. On June 16-17, 2006 there will be the Eco-Tourism Fair in Vientiane at the Don Chan Palace Hotel.
Ambassador Vang Rattanvong, Vice-Chairman of the LNTA, recently announced that Laos is on the way to become a world- renowned destination specializing in forms of sustainable tourism. Through partnership and cooperation, this will benefit natural and cultural heritage conservation and local socioeconomic development. Also, it will spread the knowledge of Laos’ unique cultural heritage around the world.
The Lao People’s Democratic Republic has indeed a low population density, unspoiled diverse ethnic lifestyles and traditions, and perhaps the richest, most extensive network of ecosystems on the Indochina Peninsula. There are over 800 species of birds and more than 100 large mammals already identified in Laos – with new species being discovered every year. Some of the more rare species include tigers, clouded leopards, gibbons, the Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong River, hornbills and silver pheasants. In place to protect and conserve these irreplaceable resources, there is a network of 20 national protected areas, often cited as one of the best designed protected area systems in the world. In addition to the country’s vast forests and aquatic resources, Laos has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, namely the former royal city of Luang Prabang and the pre-Angkorian temple complex of Wat Phu. There is also the mysterious Plain of Jars, a forthcoming World Heritage Site, that has significant archaeological and historical values.
Eager to position Laos as a premier Eco-Tourism destination, the LNTA , related government agencies and the private sector are working hard to realize the ambitious vision put forth in the country’s National Eco-Tourism Strategy and Action Plan. Enshrined in this plan are the following principles:
• Decrease environmental and cultural impacts by increasing awareness of the importance of the ethnic groups and biological diversity.
• Promote responsible business practices, which cooperate closely with local authorities and people to support poverty alleviation and deliver conservation benefits.
• Provide a source of income to conserve, sustain and manage the Lao protected area network and cultural heritage sites.
• Emphasize the need for tourism zoning and management plans for sites that will be developed as Eco-Tourism destinations.
• Use environmental and social baseline data, as well as long term monitoring programs, to assess and minimize negative impacts.
• Maximize the benefits for the Lao national economy especially local businesses and people living in and around the protected areas.
• Ensure that tourism does not exceed the social and economic limits as determined by researchers working in conjunction with local residents.
• Promote local styles of architecture that are developed in harmony with Lao culture and environment, that use local materials, minimize energy consumption and conserve local plants and wildlife.
During this year’s Eco-Tourism Fair, there will be on display the country’s finest tour destinations, new tour programs, handicrafts and popular Lao made products. With the support of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Mekong Tourism Development Project and its tourism industry partners, representatives from over half of the country’s provinces will be on hand to provide up to date information on how to visit the best natural and cultural tourist sites in Laos. On June 16, the venue will be open to travel agents and tourism businesses only, with the doors open to the general public on Saturday June 17.
(Reinhard Hohler is a GMS media travel consultant based in Chiang Mai and can be reached by e-mail: [email protected])


Las Vegas Sands to build Singapore’s first casino

By Gillian Wong
Associated Press

Singapore has awarded U.S. casino operator Las Vegas Sands Corp. the license to build the city-state’s first casino - one that is also set to be the world’s costliest.
The casino-resort at Marina Bay, which will be built on a 20.6-hectare (50.9-acre) waterfront site near the financial district, is likely to cost more than 5 billion Singapore dollars (US$3.16 billion; €2.47 billion), Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister S. Jayakumar told a press conference.
Currently, the world’s most expensive casino is the US$2.7 billion (€2.10 billion) Wynn Las Vegas that was completed late last year.
Las Vegas Sands beat off competition from three other bidding groups - MGM Mirage and CapitaLand Ltd., Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. and Keppel Land Ltd., and Genting International PLC and Star Cruises Ltd.
Sands’ President and Chief Operating Officer William Weidner welcomed the Southeast Asian island-republic’s decision.
“Our presence in Singapore, combined with our footprint in North Asia and access to China, the largest source of tourism in the foreseeable future, will enable us to generate mutual benefits for both economies and for visitors alike,” Weidner said in a statement.
Singapore last year reversed its decades-old ban on casino gambling, and said it would award licenses to operate a casino resort at Marina Bay and another on the resort island of Sentosa to boost tourism and help the city-state shed its straight-laced image. Sands, which runs the Venetian casino in Las Vegas and is expanding into Macau, says it expects to open the resort in 2009.
Jayakumar said Sand’s proposal best met the city-state’s economic and tourism objectives, and would significantly strengthen Singapore’s position as a leading destination for conventions and exhibitions.
The casino and resort will be a “large scale iconic development”, he said, with a construction cost of S$3.85 billion (US$2.43 billion; €1.90 billion) and a land cost of S$1.2 billion (US$760 million; €590 million).
“The (Sands) proposal also possesses unique design elements which will provide a memorable image for Marina Bay,” Jayakumar added.
According to the Singapore Tourism Board, the bidders were assessed based on four criteria: tourism appeal and contribution; architectural concept and design; development investment; and strength of the consortium and partners.
U.S. casino operators have been rushing to expand in Asia to tap the region’s fast-growing ranks of millionaires and middle-class consumers. Besides vying to build a casino in Singapore, MGM and Sands are also developing properties in Macau, the only part of China where casino gaming is legal.
The tender for Singapore’s second casino was launched in April. The government will likely decide on the winning bid for the Sentosa casino before the end of the year.



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