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LTU daily non-stop to Germany to continue

Strengthening partnerships

Thai tourism trade scrambles to catch rising baht

LTU daily non-stop to Germany to continue

Strong passenger demand will keep LTU flying daily from Thailand to Germany.

Due to strong passenger demand LTU will continue its daily non-stop flights between Bangkok and Phuket to Munich and Düsseldorf, according to the airline management.

While many airlines tend to reduce their flight schedules during the summer months or low season in Thailand, as of May 1, LTU has opted to keep its high season schedule in place.

LTU’s improved route network now offers forty connecting flights for passengers flying from Bangkok and wishing to connect to other cities in Europe.

According to LTU, their business class fares are better priced than competing airlines flying out of Bangkok and passengers are offered separate check-in counters, luxury seats, and gourmet menus.

LTU’s also has a frequent flyer program named Redpoints, which offers an attractive bonus system.

Every year, LTU carries more than 5.9 million passengers to more than 70 destinations world-wide on its Airbus fleet of 26 aircraft. LTU operates its service to Thailand with A330-200 wide body aircraft with 18 business seats and 305 economy seats part of the youngest and most technically advanced fleets worldwide.

Strengthening partnerships

PATA Thailand Chairman, Mr. Bob James (left, front row) presents Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor, Ms Phornsiri Manoharn, with a bouquet of flowers following the TAT-Chapter dialogue session at TAT head office in Bangkok.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand strengthened its partnership and understanding with the PATA Thailand Chapter, a joint private-public sector body representing hotels, tour operators, airlines and travel-related companies in Thailand.

The TAT Governor, Ms Phornsiri Manoharn, exchanged statistical updates and views with the Chapter’s executive committee.

Ms Phornsiri expressed short-term concern at the downturn in international arrivals from Japan and Singapore, and from the business and meetings sectors in general, due to the current uncertain political environment in Thailand. However, tour operator members of the Chapter said that while demand from Asian markets had softened, European leisure demand was increasing to compensate. In the past, 50% of online leisure booking requests were turned down due to excess demand. With fewer business visitors, more hotel beds and airline seats were now available to holiday buyers.

The Governor told PATA Chapter leaders that the TAT did not fear competition from neighboring countries due to Thailand’s variety. "Thailand has everything except casinos and snow," she said, adding that such variety plus Bangkok’s role as an aviation hub serving 98 airlines gave it a distinct advantage over neighboring countries.

She cited the Indian wedding market and film productions shot on location in Thailand as sectors that had potential for growth.

The PATA Thailand Chapter Chairman, Mr. Bob James, offered the Chapter’s full support for TAT objectives, including support for the TAT’s crisis communications team.

Thai tourism trade scrambles to catch rising baht

Agents and hoteliers are rushing to switch back to quoting in baht due to its stronger position against the US dollar and as Thailand drops some of its value-for-money luster.

The baht’s sudden surge against the dollar over the past six months caught agencies and hotels – which switched to quoting in dollars after the 1997 financial crisis – off guard. Agents and hoteliers are now desperately trying to revert back to baht so that overseas operators are stuck with the risk.

Destination Asia CEO and group managing director, James Reed, said: "Any company that has quoted a high percentage of services in US dollars would have been exposed over the last six months as the baht appreciated."

How much business Thailand has lost as a result of the strengthening baht is uncertain, but according to Association of Thai Travel Agents figures, visitor arrivals in the first two months of the year were down 11 per cent on the year. The fall has largely been attributed to the current political uncertainty gripping the country, but members of the trade polled by TTG Asia said they believed the stronger baht (now hovering around 35 to the dollar) had impacted on arrivals as well.

Asian Trails managing director, Roger Haumueller, said the company had been stung by the baht’s appreciation. He said: "We’re trying to convince the ones who currently pay in US dollars to change to Thai baht whenever possible. It’s very uncertain. We have to do quotations for the next year-and-a-half for incentives. So where will the US dollar be in October 2008?"

Asian Trails released its one-year rates last October and had already revised the rates twice as a result of the stronger baht, he said.

Mr Haumueller said: "We have had to adjust rates for clients for quotations done in US dollars and they were not happy. If there is a fluctuation of 10 per cent, we have to change it. There is no way we can absorb it."

Italian operators, who had based brochure rates on Asian Trails’ dollar rates, were causing the company the most grief, he said.

Turismo Asia managing director and CEO, Nino Jotikasthira, said he was trying to persuade clients to pay in baht, but admitted many were reluctant to do so.

He said: "For some tour operators in some countries, it’s quite difficult to buy baht – it’s easier to buy dollars. We shall see where we will compromise."

Marriott Hotels & Resorts marketing director Thailand, Meg Evans, said Marriott began quoting entirely in baht in December. "Every five-star hotel in Bangkok, with the exception of the InterContinental, is quoting in baht," she said.

Ms Evans said the Marriott had not had to amend contracts as a result of the currency switch because the contracting process was being carried out when the company converted to baht.

Starwood Hotels Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia vice-president, Wayne Buckingham, said existing contracts quoted in dollars would remain the same, but the company was pushing for all new contracts to be quoted in baht. He said: "We have sent instructions out for everyone to quote in baht unless a customer specifically asks to quote in US dollars. In those cases, we’ll consider utilizing a clause that protects us from any major movement in the currency." TTG