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

Thai Hotels improved to international standards

Food and Entertainment Festival brings in Mekong River

Prince of Mekong yacht launched

Thailand air connectivity gets boosts from LCCs in the Asia Pacific region

AirAsia thinks global with Kuching flights

Thai tourism industry cautions government against adverse impact of bird flu virus

Thai Hotels improved to international standards

Preeyanoot Jittawong
TAT, the Thai Hotels Association and the Association of Thai Travel Agents jointly invited hotel business owners of Chiang Mai to undergo a hotel check in order to improve their hotels and reach international standards. The details of hotels that have been checked and deemed to be OK will be added to the TAT website. There are now 119 hotels that have achieved or surpassed the standard after being checked.

(From left) Jaruoboon Pana-non, director of tourism product promotion; TAT, Thongyoo Supawittayakorn, of the Association of Thai Travel Agents and Jesada Techaprasertporn, vice president of Amari Watergate Hotel talking about the project.

Jaruboon Pana-non, director of tourism product promotion of TAT, disclosed in a recent meeting of hotel owners at the Porn Ping Hotel, that the hotel check project had been running for the last four years. TAT wishes hotels throughout the country to join the project that is aimed at standardising the quality of hotels and giving accurate information to tourists. Stars are used as a symbol of hotel standards, from one to five stars. Several hotels, prior to being checked, claimed they had a higher number of stars than they were entitled to, causing dissatisfaction to clients and resulting in them receiving a poor impression of the country.
The standardisation of hotel ratings is to enable customers to select hotels matching their needs. The star rating system is internationally recognized as indicating different facilities hotels have to offer. Hoteliers achieving those standards will enable Thai hotels to compete with similar establishments overseas and at the same time improve the standards of Thai hotels. The judgement of these standards is divided into three categories; construction and facilities, care of customers and standard of service. After being checked, hotels that have passed the standard will receive a 3-year certificate and after three years, these hotels will be checked again. However, there are officers who will conduct spot-checks on all the hotels during the interim.
All hotels in Chiang Mai are being urged to join the checking process to enable them to reach internationally recognised standards. More information about the project and information of how to apply is available at the Thai Hotels Standard Foundation or by calling phone number 02-2819496.


Food and Entertainment Festival brings in Mekong River

Preeyanoot Jittawong
Kriangsak “Daeng” Saithai, chairman of the Chiang Mai Restaurant and Entertainment Association said that the 7th Food and Entertainment Festival will be held on November 10-16, 2006 and that it will be greater than ever after moving from Kad Choeng Doi to Chiang Mai 700 Year Anniversary Stadium.
The move will enable the festival to be held on an area of 20,000 Square meters, making space for many well known restaurants from Chiang Mai and nearby provinces with more than 150 beverage booths.
There will also be live concerts during the event. The concert area can support up to 2,500 set of tables or approximately 10,000 seats for visitors.
This year, there will be more than 300 booths with products from the Mekong Basin; hence, the event’s title has been changed to the impossibly long “7th Food and Entertainment Festival and Mekong Basin Products and Cultural Exhibition” and it is expected to attract more 50,000 visitors a day.
This event is essentially a Northern basic-product show; exhibiting such things as agricultural produce, herbs and healthy food in support of the policy to promote Thai cuisine to become a world-wide cuisine. There will also be local products to promote and strengthen OTOP; and a high-technology product exhibition to promote Chiang Mai as being a center of trade and investment. Moreover, because this event is now the Mekong Basin Products and Cultural Exhibition there will be produce on display from China, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand.
Those who are interested in setting up booths at the exhibition, should tel. 0-5322-3522, 0-5322-2885, Fax. 0-5389-5255, E-mail: [email protected]


Prince of Mekong yacht launched

Saksit Meesubkwang
The Prince of Mekong yacht has been launched to serve tourists travelling from Chiang Rai to Jinghong, Xishuangbanna in China; a journey of 340 km taking 2 days and a night. The yacht provides Xishuangbanna guides to take care of guests during the trip.
Chiang Rai deputy governor, Nopporn Tornrap presided over the launching ceremony of the Prince of Mekong yacht at the Mekong riverbank, at Chiang Saen Port in Chiang Saen district, Chiang Rai. The ceremony was attended by numerous representatives of local businesses and government.
The 300 ton-capacity yacht boasts 20 en-suite rooms. The biggest room holds up to 10 persons and the top of yacht is suitable to hold parties with karaoke facilities.
The Prince of Mekong yacht is called “Wang Chue Ho” in Chinese and cost 20 million baht. Tourists will have the opportunity to visit Thai, Burmese, Laotian and Chinese villages including villages of the Tai hill tribe.
This year almost 200 tourists have already reserved tickets and the yacht has received many further enquiries. Additionally, there are many Chinese tourists wishing to visit Thailand on the yacht, although these visitors sometimes encounter visa difficulties in Khunming.
Suranath Taweesupt, the Thai representative of the Prince of Mekong yacht, accepted that higher fuel costs affected yacht tourism; nevertheless, the ticket price has been maintained at the old price to satisfy clients. He said that governments of Mekong basin countries; China, Burma, Laos and Thailand, should increase support for tourism in this area.


Thailand air connectivity gets boosts from LCCs in the Asia Pacific region

By Satish G. / eTN Asia
Capitalizing on Thai aviation policy of open skies, Singapore-based low cost airline Tiger Airways has decided to commence additional flights to Thai destinations of Bangkok, Hat Yai and Krabi in response to increased demand. The fares start from S$29.98, (approx. Bt.1300) one way excluding taxes and fees. The additional flights to Thailand will fly more than 100,000 passengers between the two countries.
“The Thai aviation policy of Open Skies has made this possible and it has resulted in a big boost to business and tourism between Singapore and Thailand. The growing demand has encouraged us to add even more flights from August to these hot destinations,” said Tiger Airways chief executive officer Tony Davis.
Tiger Airways will also be adding three additional flights to its Singapore-Bangkok route starting from August 19, (currently 11 flights weekly); two additional flights to its Singapore-Hat Yai route from August 14, (currently seven flights weekly); and two additional flights to its Singapore-Krabi route (currently four flights weekly).
The development follows the recent increase of Tiger Airways flights between Singapore and Phuket, which began in July.
Recently, connectivity to Phuket got a major boost with the announcement of new direct flights to the island from key markets Hong Kong and Australia. Orient Thai started daily service between Hong Kong and Phuket, while Hong Kong Express is to offer charter flights to the island from August for US$386 (Bt.14,600) a ticket.
Jetstar is to introduce a thrice-weekly Sydney-Phuket service from November onwards.


AirAsia thinks global with Kuching flights

Low fare airline, AirAsia, hopes to introduce more direct international flights from Kuching with the opening of its latest hub in Kuching on July 25.
Group CEO of AirAsia, Datuk Tony Fernandes, said the airline was looking at direct flights from Kuching to Bangkok and Phuket in Thailand, Macau, Shenzhen in China and Balikpapan and Jakarta in Indonesia. He said the airline is awaiting approval for its applications submitted to Thailand and Indonesia.
He expected these international flights would start early next year.
Two of AirAsia’s Boeing 737-300 aircraft would be stationed at the new hub to service four new local destinations in East Malaysia, namely Kota Kinabalu, Bintulu, Miri and Sibu.
Second Finance Minister and Urban Development and Tourism Minister of Sarawak, Datuk Sri Wong Soon Koh, said at the press conference after officiating the Kuching hub yesterday, that insufficient air connectivity was hampering tourism in the state. With the rationalisation exercise taking effect on August 1, MAS would terminate routes to Perth, Frankfurt and Sydney.
He hoped AirAsia, as a regional airline with links to foreign countries, would bring in more foreign tourists in the future.
Datuk Fernandes said AirAsia is expected to fly in 1.6 million tourists by year-end, an additional one million tourists in 2007 and 3.5 million in 2010.(TTG)


Thai tourism industry cautions government against adverse impact of bird flu virus

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinwatra has insisted that the government could control the latest outbreak of bird flu, amid mounting concerns for critical industries like tourism and poultry exports.
The government has re-instructed all provincial governors to be on alert in preventing the bird flu outbreak. The development comes at a stage when Thailand’s tourism industry has urged the government to wipe out the latest outbreak of bird flu before October, when the peak tourist season begins.
“We are confident that Thailand can control the spread of the outbreak,” said Thaksin.
Following news that the bird flu virus has been found in many locations, Thai Ministry of Interior’s Permanent Secretary Sucharit Patchimnun said the provincial governors have to ensure that the disease will not spread to other areas, and they have to develop a better understanding with the residents. He said top protective measures must be implemented. Governors across Thailand have already been assigned to inspect their respective areas, to deal with possible bird flu issues.
The Thai Hotels Association vice president Prakit Shinamornpong cautioned against adverse impact, acknowledging that bird flu must be brought under control.
“Bird flu must be brought under control within two months. Otherwise, the tourism industry will suffer when high season arrives,” said Shinamornpong.
“Now we have received bookings for high season, which are normally made a few months in advance,” said Suparerk Soorangura, former president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents. “If Thailand fails to make it clear right now that the country can control the bird flu, tourists will panic about the outbreak and decide not to come to Thailand later this year.”
Tourism agencies worry that the possible spread of bird flu in Thailand, as well as neighboring Laos, could hurt the industry just as it is rebounding from the effects of the December 2004 tsunami. The industry expects 13 million tourist arrivals in 2006, generating revenue of about $US12.3 billion. (eTN Asia)