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Vol. XIII No.5 - Sunday March 9, 2014 - Saturday March 22, 2014


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Business - Travel - Tourism
 

Clarins launches first Skin Spa in the North

President of Clarins Asia Pacific Laurent Lautier is joined by Agents Director Jean-Marie Le Roy, Kamonchanok Chotsmithkul, PR & Communication Manager for Clarins Products for Central Trading, Usara Yongpiyakul, Director of Cosmetics Products Clarins, and Tristam LeComte of Pure Project, a supplier of plant products for Clarins.

Shana Kongmun
Clarins, famous among women for their creams and skin serums, has launched their first Skin Spa in the North at Central Festival Chiang Mai. The grand opening of the premium skin care services spa on February 21, 2014 at their new spa on the first floor. Offering a full range of treatments using the products derived from 100% natural plant products, the Skin Spa will offer facial treatments, body treatments, exfoliating treaments, massages, waxing including bikini, eyebrow shaping and back waxing. There are treatments for men as well as beauty and pampering for expectant mothers.
President of the Asia Pacific Region for Clarins Laurent Lautier pointed out that Clarins, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, was glad to be expanding into the North and that their dedication to the environment extends beyond using plant products for their cosmetics and creams but that they also plant trees in important areas such as watersheds and forests to ensure that they give back to the environment. The Spa is open from 10:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. Call 053-288-601 to make an appointment.


Economic slowdown due to the current political confusion

Thailand’s Kasikorn Research Center says that if the current political confusion continues through June, the country’s economy might grow only by 3 per cent. Kasikorn deputy managing director Pimonwan Mahatchariyawong said the Thai economy at present is still at risk from the political stalemate which may be prolonged and thus slow down consumption and investment.
She said the economy was predicted to grow at 0.3-1.2 per cent in the first half of the year and at 3 per cent for the entire 2014, while March and April are to be monitored, for there may be some major situations that could impact the economic situation.
Exports this year are forecast to grow 5 per cent, thanks to the improved world economy, while import was predicted to expand 2 per cent as a result of the country’s economic slowdown.
Ms Pimonwan said Kasikorn Research Center might readjust its forecast should there be no sign of setting up a new government within April, the Thai export situation has not returned to a positive figure in Q1, and the country’s drought is so severe it affects the production capacity in some industrial areas. (MCOT online news)


Tourism has been affected by political rallies

Chiang Mai Mail interviews TAT Governor

Nopniwat Krailerg
Thawatchai Arunyik, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) revealed to the Chiang Mai Mail that the continuing political rally in Bangkok has affected tourism in the first quarter of this year heavily. He noted that since October last year the Kingdom has seen tourist numbers drop and that Thailand has lost 400,000 tourists entering the country due to the political rallies in Bangkok. Lost revenue reached over 40 billion baht, he added.

TAT Governor Thawatchai Arunyik said that while tourism has been affected by the political rallies in Bangkok that Chiang Mai has seen steady growth as people avoided Bangkok.

He noted that if the protests reignite then the second quarter could see a loss of more than 90 billion baht to the Thai economy as group tours and conventioneers change plans to other countries.
He noted that Bangkok had seen the worst effects of the downturn but that other destinations had seen growth including Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Phuket and Krabi as tourists avoided visiting Bangkok. He added that Thai tourists are still traveling normally.
The Governor noted that the tourism market in the North is quite strong in terms of culture and that next year the TAT plans on a promotion focusing on the North’s culture and environment. He noted that the TAT takes the smog problems that face the North annually very seriously and is cooperating with all sectors to find ways to combat burning and smog.
The Governor went on to discuss the influx of Chinese tourists visiting Chiang Mai noting that the unhappiness of the local people for their inappropriate behavior for the local culture. However, he added that the TAT plans on taking measures to educate visiting tourists as to appropriate behavior and dress and to teach visitors to Thailand and Chiang Mai more about the local culture. The TAT has prepared a brochure of Do’s and Don’ts to explain about local customs, Thai laws, traffic laws and other rules that tourists should be aware of. Governor Thawatchai added that many are worried about the pollution and overcrowding that will occur with the recent opening of the new Route R3A which connects Kunming to Bangkok through Chiang Khong in Chiang Rai. To this he said, “We should remember that every coin has two sides and that more tourists will help the Thai economy grow” and that communities need to make certain that they should help educate tourists on the important rules they need to follow so that tourism remains sustainable.


Sri Lanka: The Next Hot Frontier Market for Retail Investors

By Don Freeman
When most westerners think of Sri Lankathey probably think of tea (as the country has long been a major tea exporter), science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke (who spent most of his adult life living there) or the now defeated Tamil Tiger guerillas not an up and coming frontier market for tourists and investors alike.
However, Sri Lanka has a recorded history dating back some 3,000 years as its strategic location along with deep harbors has always made the island an important stop for travelers (like Marco Polo who wrote that it was the finest island in the whole world), explorers and traders for centuries with Portuguese explorers arriving in the 1500s, followed by Dutch traders in the 1600s and ultimately the British who took over the island from the Dutch during the Napoleonic Wars. The British stayed until after World War II when independence led to simmering tensions and ultimately a very destructive civil war between the majority Buddhist Sinhalese and the Hindu/Christian Tamil minority.
No one knows for sure how many Sri Lankans died or were displaced during the 26-year civil war that lasted until 2009, but the conflict is estimated to have cost the country more than $200 billion or five times the country’s 2009 GDP just to fight it. To add to the country’s miseries, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed some 35,000 people, displaced hundreds of thousands of more people and devastated the infrastructure in the areas impacted.
Today, Sri Lanka is once again open for business and is increasingly coming onto the radar of both foreign tourists and investors alike. But is Sri Lanka set to become the next hot frontier market for all investors and how might retail investors take advantage of the growing number of investment opportunities there?
Why Visit or Invest in Sri Lanka?
My flight to Mattala International Airport in southern Sri Lanka took about a 3 1/2 hours and I arrived at the new international airport built to bring in more tourists like myself along with business travelers. In fact, I was told the new airport (just opened in early 2013 and one of three in the country) cost over $200 million and will be able to handle up to 6 million passengers per year once the second phase is completed plus its located near a recently completed port - meaning the airport is also part of an important cargo and logistics hub.
Like most tourists who do venture to Sri Lanka, I headed straight to a beach area immediately for surfing. After I arrived at the beach also did not see many other foreigners. And while locals told me they are seeing more foreign tourists since the end of the civil war, I never once saw a single McDonald’s, Pizza Hut or KFC in the south, albeit I was told that some western fast food chains now have locations in the big city of Colombo.
I should mention that the Sri Lankan economy has traditionally revolved around commodities like gems, tea, spices, rubber and coconuts along with apparel making rather than services like tourism, but that’s starting to change because the end of the civil war has led to new hotels and other infrastructure to be built, upgraded or planned. After all, there are plenty of reasons for foreign tourists to visit Sri Lanka when you consider that the island is small enough to be easily crisscrossed in a few days and has eight world heritage sites, hundreds of other historical sites, a number of scenic national parks with impressive biodiversity, plenty of festivals and religious places (as the country is home to Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and Christians who all revere Adam’s Peak as a sacred mountain), sporting activities and beaches with year round swimming.
More importantly, Sri Lankans are friendly, fairly well educated (a 94% literacy rate) and almost every one you meet there can speak English. These qualities have helped the country to develop and grow a niche outsourcing industry (including publicly traded Indian BPOs who have set up operations there) serving Fortune 500 companies globally. In fact, Sri Lanka has the highest number of UK-qualified accountants outside of the UK and this has attracted the attention of financial services firms from insurance companies to investment banks that have set up their portfolio and analytics divisions in the country.
However and before Sri Lanka can truly live up to its branding as a “knowledge island,” the country still needs to work on improving basic infrastructure like roads and Internet or telco bandwidth - especially outside of Colombo. Sri Lanka is apparently the only country in South Asia that can supply electricity to customers throughout the entire day without blackouts plus it has the most liberalized economy in the region because foreign investors receive preferential tax rates, constitutional guarantees on investment agreements and exemptions from foreign exchange controls plus 100% repatriation of profits and 100% foreign ownership is allowed in most areas of the economy.
Don Freeman is president of Freeman Capital Management, a Registered Investment Advisor with the US Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), based in Phuket, Thailand. He has over 15 years experience and provides personal financial planning and wealth management to expatriates. Specializing in UK and US pension transfers. Call 089-970-5795 or email: [email protected]


Chiang Mai to get digital TV on April 1

Colonel Natee Sukolrat, Vice President of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) and the Chairman of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) said today that there has been approval of a plan to expand the digital TV network to cover another 28 provinces.
There are two phases of digital TV network expansion that will soon cover 80 percent of the population. The first phase of digital TV network expansion will start broadcasting on April 1 in four provinces: Bangkok, Nakhon Ratchasima, Chiang Mai and Songkhla. Then, in May, the system will start in another three provinces, including: Ubon Ratchathani, Surat Thani and Rayong, and soon after that, it will cover Singburi, Sukhothai, Khon Kaen and Udon Thani.
The second phase of network expansion will happen in six phases. From August 1, the system will start in Roi Et, Chiang Rai, Sa Kaeo and Nakhon Sawan. On October 1, the system will start in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Phuket, Trang and Lampang. On December 1, the system will start in another five provinces including Sakon Nakhon, Surin, Nan, Phetchabun and Prachuap Kirikhan; on February 1 of next year, the system will start in Kanchanaburi, Chumphon, Trat, Mukdahan and Tak; on April 1, 2015 the system will start in Mae Hong Son, Ranong, Loei, Chaiyaphum and Phrae; and on June 1, 2015 the network will cover Satun, Uttaradit, Beung Kan, Sri Saket and Yala. (NNT)


FTI Chiang Mai chooses new Chairwoman

Siriporn Tantipong of Bee Products

Chiang Mai Mail reporters
The Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) Chiang Mai held their Annual General Meeting recently and announced the operating results of the organization as well as held elections for the new chair.

Siriporn Tantipong, Managing Director of Bee Products was elected as the FTI – Chiang Mai’s first female chairperson.

Ongart Kittikhunchai retired from the position as it was the end of his rotation in the role. Payungsak Chartsutipol, Chairmand of the Federation of Thai Industries for Thailand presided over the election that saw Siriporn Tantipong, Managing Director of Bee Products, elected.
Bee Products is known for its production of the popular treatment Royal Jelly. She is the first woman chair of the FTI – Chiang Mai in its history. She noted that she plans on continuing the policies that have made the FTI – Chiang Mai successful and help members meet the challenges brought on by political and economic factors. She said the first issue that needs addressing is to help SMEs market their products. The FTI – Chiang Mai will work with the Department of Foreign trade to help entrepreneurs become competitive globally and ready to step into the AEC in 2015.


Tourism council urges Government to lift Emergency Decree

The Tourism Council of Thailand has estimated that the Thai tourism sector has lost 82 billion baht since anti-government protests took place in Bangkok and called on the government to lift the Emergency Decree.
President of the Tourism Council of Thailand Piyamarn Techapaiboon said on Monday, March 1, that the country was expected to lose over 1.7 million tourists in the first quarter of this year due to the political problems. She also suggested that the Emergency Decree should be revoked since it affected tourist confidence.
The council will revise tourism revenue and arrivals targets for this year in the next two weeks after the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee canceled its mass protests at major junctions in Bangkok.
The Tourism Council of Thailand earlier estimated that this year’s tourism revenue will stand at two trillion baht, a 8% increase from the previous year, and set the tourist arrivals target at 28-29 million people, higher than the 2013 target of 26.8 million people. (NNT)


Chiang Mai Airport to cope with rapidly increasing passenger numbers

The Chiang Mai airport is urgently expanding after the number of air travelers at the airport increased by over 5.4 million people in 2013.
President of the Airports of Thailand (AoT) Mekhin Phetlai said the Chiang Mai airport’s foreign passengers had leaped last year, resulting in the airport moving up to compete with the group of 77 airports with 5-15 million passengers. The Chiang Mai airport therefore needed to urgently develop its services and facilities in order to make its way to the list of top ten best airports in the category of 5-15 million passengers.
According to the Chiang Mai airport director, recent increases in flights and passengers are the results of rising low-cost airline and foreign tourist numbers, especially Chinese tourists.
Meanwhile, Vice President of the AoT Chovalit Phakha-ariya said that the Chiang Mai airport had set plans to expand the domestic departure and international arrival lounges. It would also add one large and three small bays, set up an One Tambon One Product center at the parking lot and extend opening hours to 24 hours. Mr Chovalit expressed his confidence that passengers would enjoy more convenience after all the improvements were completed. (NNT)


AIS launches new full service shop at Maya

Deputy Governor Chareonrit Sa-nguansat joins Vilasinee Puddhikarant and James Jirayu to cut the ribbon at the new AIS full service shop.

Nopniwat Krailerg
AIS 3G 2100 launched their newest 3G 2100 shop in Chiang Mai at the new Maya Chiag Mai Lifestyle Shopping Center on February 28, 2014. Deputy Governor Charoenrit Sa-nguansat was joined by the AIS brand representative famous star James Jirayu for the grand opening.
Vilasinee Puddhikarant, Chief Customer Officer of Advanced Info Service Public Company Limited (AIS) said that the new AIS shop was launched to be the center of wireless technology to serve the users of the 3G 2100 bandwidth.
K. Vilasinee said that the 3G2100 offers the best “Total Experience” for mobile internet users. AIS plans to expand their branches throughout the country by the end of this year. Chiang Mai is a focus for AIS as it is a hub for the Northern economy.
The AIS shop at Maya is the second main shop in Chiang Mai, located on the 3rd floor the shop offers not only easy bill payment but also a Try & Buy Zone with 100 different types of smartphones and tablets for customers. The Smart Table Zone offers presentations of the functions and applications and allows customers to compare the features of different handsets with the assistance of knowledgeable staff. The center also provides special officers to AIS Privilege customers and promotions for AIS customers for special occasions.


Ministry of Finance holds regional forum

Permanent Secretary discusses rice pledging scheme

Rungson Sriworasat, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance chaired the 2nd CCO-MOF Forum (The North Region) at the Holiday Inn Hotel Chiang Mai on February 19, 2014 where officials discussed tax issues and the rice pledging scheme.

Nopniwat Krailerg
Around 500 officials from the Ministry of Finance in the North attended a forum held at the Holiday Inn Hotel, Chiang Mai on February 19, 2014. The 2nd CCO-MOF Forum (The North Region), chaired by Rungson Sriworasat, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, was held to encourage officials to innovate and promote beneficial changes in the Ministry of Finance. It was also hoped to create a management network of that change for officials who attended the forum.
Administrators and government officials under the umbrella of the Ministry of Finance came from 17 Northern provinces to attend the forum and hear the Permanent Secretary give the keynote speech on “The role of the Ministry of Finance in National Development”. Additionally there was a dialogue between the Permanent Secretary, the directors general and representatives of directors general of all departments in the Ministry of Finance on the “Involvement of the Agencies under the Ministry of Finance to Drive Strategy” as well as dialogue to clarify the Tax Clinic Project of the Ministry of Finance to SMEs entrepreneurs and the private sector in the area.
Permanent Secretary Rungson Sriworasat said that a major concern affecting the Ministry are the changes of government which results in inconsistent policy including inclusion in the upcoming ASEAN Economic Community in 2015. He noted that officials must manage the changes to ensure maximum benefit and prepare personnel. One such example was the planned renovation of the Customs Department with a budget of 2 trillion baht, however that loan has now been put on hold and the Ministry must source loans from other areas.
The Minister noted that under the rice pledging scheme of the government the Ministry of Finance is obliged to pay farmers with warehouse receipts. The MoF has tried every possible avenue to find funds for the scheme including bank loans and bonds. They are working with the Ministry of Commerce to sell rice to get working capital to pay the farmers.
Under the previous rice pledging schemes of 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, the government had a policy to accepting pledges for all rice up to a budget of no more than 500 billion baht but the budget for this year went over 680 billion baht. The government rushed to sell rice so as to reduce the budget to 410 billion baht and pay the rest to the farmers.
The government thought it could reduce the budget to 270 billion baht and release money periodically and assigned the Ministry to control the warehouse receipts. The Ministry of Finance has invited all agencies concerned to assess risk and assigned Provincial Executive Councils of the Ministry of Finance to be responsible for issuing warehouse receipts. However, there were issues with differing interpretations of the law as officials tried to solve the problem under the framework of the law including issuing more than 4 million “farmer credit cards” to farmers from the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives to buy agricultural materials.


TAT holds “MEGA Fam Trip & Fall in Love Thailand”

The TAT held a series of networking meetings for groups of businesspeople, governmental organizations and mass media to help promote domestic tourism.

Nopniwat Krailerg
In a bid to stimulate domestic tourism and to network domestic businesses with buyers the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and Siam Niramit Bangkok, the well-known cultural and historical show, organized the “MEGA Fam Trip & Fall in Love Thailand” on February 21, 2014. They invited groups of buyers from the corporate level, local governmental organizations, mass media, educational institutions, tour associations and financial institutions to the exchange opinions and create marketing channels to promote domestic tourism in meetings of “Table top negotiations.”
The business negotiations part of the event was divided into 3 rounds from 2.30 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. to provide sellers and buyers the opportunity to meet and discuss products. The opening ceremony of the “MEGA Fam Trip & Fall in Love Thailand” was presided over by Thawatchai Arunyik, Governor of Tourism Authority of Thailand in the evening, the Governor also joined the party; exchanging opinions about domestic tourism of Thailand and watched cultural performances and Thai children’s games.
TAT organized the event to promote domestic tourism and to see Thai tourists travel to more regions. The TAT worked to create networks between tourism businesses, local governments and mass media to stimulate the domestic tourism market year round. Additionally, local businesses could see the effectiveness of expanding their customer base by entering other regions for promotion of their market as well as allow entrepreneurs the chance to update their products by getting feedback from markets.


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Clarins launches first Skin Spa in the North

Economic slowdown due to the current political confusion

Tourism has been affected by political rallies

Sri Lanka: The Next Hot Frontier Market for Retail Investors

Chiang Mai to get digital TV on April 1

FTI Chiang Mai chooses new Chairwoman

Tourism council urges Government to lift Emergency Decree

Chiang Mai Airport to cope with rapidly increasing passenger numbers

AIS launches new full service shop at Maya

Ministry of Finance holds regional forum

TAT holds “MEGA Fam Trip & Fall in Love Thailand”

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