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Nok Air cancels Chiang Mai – Mae Hong Son route

Nok Air is facing complaints after cancelling the Chiang Mai – Mae Hong Son route (Photo courtesy of [email protected])

Mae Hong Son Tourism Council has reportedly been flooded with complaints after Nok Air decided to stop its Chiang Mai - Mae Hong Son service route. According to President of Mae Hong Son Tourism Council Mr. Supoj Klinpraneet, Nok Air has breached the contract requiring the airline to provide services on the Chiang Mai - Mae Hong Son route.
The contract called for Nok Air to provide services by its Saab-340, a 34-seat aircraft, 3 times daily. However, the low-cost airline has at just reduced its service schedule to only one flight per day, and will be shutting down permanently at the end of March.
The President of the Mae Hong Son Tourism Council further said that the Thai Airways had flown the route before canceling its service. Before the cancellation, however, the airline had advised locals that Nok Air would take its place. With Nok Air also canceling its services, Mr. Supoj posed the sixty-four thousand dollar question,” Who should be held accountable for the region’s loss of business and revenue?” (NNT)


Chiang Mai readies for sustainable tourism development

The Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce joined with other organizations and Chiang Mai University for the seminar on sustainable tourism development held at the Empress Hotel on March 5, 2014.

Nopniwat Krailerg
Chiang Mai is ready for sustainable tourism development under the upcoming ASEAN Economic Community according to a seminar held at the Empress Hotel Chiang Mai on March 5, 2014. Chiang Mai Deputy Governor Chana Pangpibul presided over the seminar which was titled “The Action Plan for Sustainable Development for Chiang Mai”.
Speakers at the seminar noted that Chiang Mai is a leading tourism city in Thailand and the major province of the North and as such a gateway to tourism in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) countries. Chiang Mai has been rated as the 5th most attractive tourist city destination in Asia from several agencies since 2008 and each year more and more tourists, both Thai and foreign, visit Chiang Mai generating enormous revenue for the area.
Chiang Mai has generated more revenue from tourism than any Northern province and comes fourth after Bangkok, Phuket and Chonburi respectively. In addition, the potential selling points for tourism for the city that have also been developed are the creative nature of Chiang Mai that sets it apart from other Thai destinations.
In 2012 Chiang Mai prepared a plan for sustainable tourism development in the whole of Chiang Mai by make proposals for tourism development in various forms, such as adventure tourism, ecotourism, cultural tourism and long stay to make Chiang Mai’s tourism development more sustainable and adaptable to the changes that will come with the AEC in 2015.


Bangkok Airways signs codeshare with Qantas

Chiang Mai Mail reporters
Bangkok Airways travelers now have more international options as the airlines has signed a codeshare agreement with Australia’s Qantas effective March 30, 2014. The agreement, which is still subject to regulatory approval, will allow Qantas passengers to book through from Bangkok and Singapore to Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Krabi and Koh Samui. Qantas frequent flyers will be able to earn points on Bangkok Airways flight, passengers will also be able to check their luggage through to their final destination.
Qantas flights available to Bangkok Airways customers, also subject to regulatory approval, are Bangkok – Sydney, Singapore – Sydney, Singapore – Melbourne, Singapore – Perth, Singapore – Brisbane, Sydney – Brisbane, Sydney – Melbourne and Sydney – Adelaide.
However, a reciprocal agreement for Bangkok Airways customers has not yet been inked for services from Bangkok and Singapore to Australia.
Bangkok Airways has Interline Traffic Agreements with international airlines such as All Nippon Airways, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Czech Airlines, Thai Airways International, and Swissair. Passengers can make Bangkok Airways’ flight reservations and purchase tickets through those airlines. The airline also has the codeshare agreement with Ethihad Airways, EVA Air, Air Berlin, KLM, Air France and Malaysian Air.


Personnel training key to AEC readiness

Training seminar on personnel development and communication in ASEAN

A training seminar was held by CMU and presided over by Dr. Pitipong Yodmongkol, Dean of Faculty of CAMT of CMU (2nd left)and Viroon Phantevee, Chief of the Chiang Mai Governor’s Office (3rd right) and Mr. Jean Morel, Management professionals in the hotel and tourism industry from Vatel Thailand (Middle) at Shangri-la Hotel Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai Mail reporters
Chiang Mai Province worked with the Knowledge and Innovation Center of Chiang Mai University to offer a training seminar in development and communication with personnel in ASEAN communities to be ready for the AEC.
The Eleventh National Economic and Social Development Plan (2012 – 2016) was implemented in 2012 by the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) and one of its aims is to strengthen the links between ASEAN countries and to push for public-private cooperation in developing human resources to ready the country for the arrival of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.
The training session was presided over by Dr. Pitipong Yodmongkol, Dean of Faculty of CAMT of CMU and Viroon Phantevee, Chief of the Chiang Mai Governor’s Office and certificates were given to participants. Chris Wright of the Chris English School in Bangkok took part in the seminar along with Mr. Jean Morel of Vatel Thailand, hotel management professionals, who both spoke to the group.
The training is working to ready personnel for the expanding cooperation and development of relationships with countries of ASEAN +3, ASEAN +6, GMS, BIMSTEC and other potentially related countries.


Land price down as court rejects bill

The Chiang Mai Land Department will assign officials to re-asses property values now that the bill to bring high speed rail lines to Chiang Mai has been deemed unconstitutional. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Constitution Court decision to scrap the 2 trillion baht (US$62 billion) borrowing bill has pushed prices of land along the prospective rail lines down. Following the ruling to scrap the planned 2-trillion-baht infrastructure loan bill because the contents in the draft violate the constitution, Thai Real Estate Association president Pornnarit Chuanchaiyasit said the decision disappointed short-term investors as they would fail to cash in on previously projected land values up at double of triple their purchase price.
According to Mr Pornnarit, the court ruling indicates that investments will shift into the capital and adjacent areas, especially those along the urban rail lines, with test runs scheduled in 2016-2017.
Thai Condominium Association president Thamrong Panyasakulwong said the estimated land value in the provinces may contract by 50 per cent, making it harder to sell off all the condos in other provinces. Land development activities will be suspended until clearer directions are seen. It is also a chance for buyers to purchase outlying condominiums at cheaper prices, while labour and construction material markets will benefit as well from the ruling.
Housing Business Association president Atip Bijanonda, meanwhile, viewed that land speculators will be most negatively affected because they expected to cash in from skyrocketing land prices along the high-speed rail lines, especially in northeastern provinces of Udon Thani, Khon Kean and Nakhon Ratchasima. Business operators, however, will not be greatly affected as they did not make any rush purchase of lands because they viewed that the government’s plan was unclear.
Real estate prices in early 2014 were affected by the political stalemate but sales began to improve in February and return to normal in March. He viewed that the Monetary Policy Committee decision to cut the policy interest rate to 2 per cent would slightly boost domestic consumption because of the ongoing political turmoil.
Department of Lands’ deputy director general Pramote Yamalee said he would assign officials to estimate land prices in Chiang Mai province following the demise of the loan bill. Land development companies have not been much affected as they did not make huge investments as the bill was unclear.
Property transactions during the past two months dropped as a result of political unrest. It should return to normal if the political situation becomes stable in the second and third quarter. Transactions in 2012 accounted for more than Bt70 billion.
Meanwhile, the “30th House & Condo Show 2014” is being held from March 13-16 at the Queen Sirikit Convention Centre to boost consumer demand. The four-day event opened today and will end on March 16, running daily from 10am-8pm. (MCOT)


Thailand still needs mega infrastructure development projects

MR Pridiyathorn Devakula said that the proposed high speed train to Chiang Mai is unnecessary as the province is already served by low – cost airlines. He added that the country needs high powered locomotives to lower transportation costs for goods. (Photo of Chinese high speed train by Bvehk via Wikimedia Commons)

Thailand’s next government should invest in infrastructure development despite the demise of the previous administration’s Bt2.2 trillion budget for mega projects, a former central bank chief said today.
MR Pridiyathorn Devakula, former finance minister and Bank of Thailand governor, allayed investors’ concerns on the cancellation of the Bt2.2 trillion loan bill for infrastructure and transport mega projects and expressed confidence that the new government would pursue the mammoth scheme under normal budgeting procedures.
The Constitutional Court on March 12 ruled unanimously that the government’s Bt2.2 trillion loan bill is unconstitutional, reasoning that the whole drafting process and its essence is unlawful.
MR Pridiyathorn called on the next government to prioritise significant projects such as the Pak Bara seaport, ten electric train routes, dual track train system and road expansion. These projects will cost Bt1.22 trillion over six years and the government is entitled to create public debt at the maximum 20 per cent of annual budget, with the possibility of borrowing another 10 per cent of the budget if necessary, he said.
Such a budget allocation will be within the financial disciplinary framework setting the ceiling of public debt at 60 per cent of gross domestic product, he added. Mr Pradiyathorn said unnecessary projects which should be suspended, for instance, the high-speed train between Bangkok and Chiang Mai which has been served by low-cost airlines. Thailand needs high-powered locomotives, not high-speed train, to lower transportation cost, he said, easing the private sector’s fear of Thailand’s weakened competitiveness.
He said he believed the next government will speed up investments in essential transport systems. Thailand urgently needs a fully-authorised government to run the country within the first six months of the year, or the country’s GDP will be badly affected, he said. (MCOT)


New cars and pretty girls; Northern Auto Show starts March 28

V-Sign Media Co Ltd announced the readiness of “Northern Auto Show 2014” and “Innovative Auto – Horsepower Energy” which will be held from March 28 to April 6 ,2014 at Chiang Mai Hall in Central Plaza Chiang Mai Airport. All car makers have agreed to debut new vehicles at the event and include such major automakers as Honda, Toyota, Mazda, Ford, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Suzuki and Mugello. The event will see hot promotions and special prices, a chance to win a Honda Zoomer – X and the Imagination Auto show featuring a Batmobile and the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona from the movie the Fast & the Furious 6.


Scania opens new center in Chiang Mai

Support to neighboring countries

Scania’s new service center in Chiang Mai will be able to service 1,200 vehicles a year, the company believes that by expanding service centers they can expand their customer base and grow sales even further.

Chiang Mai Mail reporters
Scania Southeast Asia, maker of buses and trucks, has opened new service centers in Chiang Mai and Khon Kaen in a bid to expand their reach throughout Thailand and neighboring countries with the advent of the AEC in 2015.
Mr. James Armstrong, Managing Director of Scania Southeast Asia said that the company sees Thailand as an important strategic point in the field of logistics and transport and the infrastructure and connections to other countries convinced them to open new service centers in the North and North East to service not only Thai customers but those from neighboring countries.
He added that with the opening of the AEC the transport market and large buses market are set to expand even further with both domestic and foreign business noting that the construction of transportation routes and utilities will see increased tourism from the ASEAN tourists and from other continents.
The service centers are an integral part of the company’s service to Thai customers and will also build a customer base in neighboring countries. He added that although the political situation in Thailand was affecting the economy he felt that it was simply a short term effect and that it had not affected business operations in the area and that trade with neighboring countries had continued unhindered. Scania is still confident in its investment and will expand the service center as originally planned. He added that by increasing service centers it will enable Scania to support market expansion and facilities to their customers to cover all areas of country in the future.
Mr. PhuriwatRak-Intr, Country Manager of Scania Siam Co., Ltd. said that Scania will open 16 service centers by 2016; 5 centers will be opened in 2014 in Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, Samut Sakhon, Nakhon Sawan and Rayong. Each of the new service centers has a budget of 45-50 million baht for construction and equipment (excluding land), and each service centers will be able to serve up to 1,200 vehicles a year. In the future, each center also expands the area to support service to meet the needs of their clients.


Rotary releases US$35.9 million to fight polio in Africa and Asia

Petina Dixon-Jenkins
The continued fight to eliminate polio has been given an additional $36 million boost from Rotary in support of polio immunization activities and research to be carried out by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which aims to end the disabling viral disease worldwide by 2018.

A polio vaccine is administered to a child in India in this U.S. CDC file photo.

The funding commitment comes at a critical time as the eradication initiative focuses on stopping polio in the three countries where the virus remains endemic: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Stopping polio in those countries is crucial in order to halt the recent spate of outbreaks in countries where the disease had previously been beaten and where mass immunizations of children via the oral polio vaccine must continue until global eradication is achieved.
The Rotary grants include $6.8 million for Afghanistan, $7.7 million for Nigeria and $926,000 for Pakistan. Grant amounts are based on requests from eradication initiative partners UNICEF and the World Health Organization, which work with the governments of polio-affected countries to plan and carry out immunization activities.
UNICEF will use a grant of $2.73 million to bolster vaccination activities throughout the Horn of Africa as part of an on-going response to an outbreak that began in 2013 and has now infected more than 200 children. The so-called “imported” cases are linked to the strain of polio endemic to Nigeria, underscoring the need to stop the virus in the endemic countries.
The other countries where Rotary funds will be used to fight polio are Burkina Faso, $2.1 million; Cameroon, $3.4 million; Democratic Republic of Congo, $3.9 million; Niger, $2.3 million; Somalia, $1.3 million; South Sudan, $2.6 million; and Sudan, $1.2 million.
WHO also received $934,000 to study the impact of introducing injectable, inactivated polio vaccine into the immunization program as part of the initiative’s endgame plan, as the goal of global eradication nears.
Unrelated to this round of grants, Rotary released $500,000 in December 2013 as an emergency response to the polio outbreak in strife-torn Syria, which had not reported polio since 1999. Through Jan. 31, there were 23 confirmed cases in Syria since October 2013, all traceable to the polio strain circulating in Pakistan.
Rotary launched its polio immunization program PolioPlus in 1985 and in 1988 became a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with the WHO, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since the initiative launched in 1988, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99 percent, from about 350,000 cases a year to 369 confirmed so far for 2013.
Rotary’s main responsibilities within the initiative are fundraising, advocacy, and social mobilization. To date, Rotary has contributed more than $1.2 billion and countless volunteer hours to fight polio. Through 2018, every new dollar Rotary commits to polio eradication will be matched two-to-one by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation up to $35 million a year.


Sri Lanka: The Next Hot Frontier Market for retail invetors

By Don Freeman
This is the second part of a discussion of retail investing in Sri Lanka beginning with the stock market of Sri Lanka.
For retail investors, investing in Sri Lanka will mean finding a way to invest in Sri Lankan stocks and bonds listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE), the country’s main stock exchange whose origins date back to 1896.
As of December 2013, the CSE had 288 listed companies accounting for approximately 1/3rd of the country’s GDP but the most important listed company (as its often used for benchmarking purposes) would be John Keells Holdings Plc, a diversified conglomerate dating back to 1870 with interests in the transportation, leisure, property, consumer foods and retail, financial services, information technology and other sectors. Locals and especially tourists like myself cannot escape the influence John Keells Holdings Plc has on the island because its brands fill the local supermarkets and convenience stores (they also own the Ceylon Cold Stores supermarket chain) plus they own at least two hotel chains (Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts and Chaaya Hotels and Resorts), travel agencies and two local or regional airlines (Cinnamon Air and Mack Air). The stock also accounts for roughly 14% of the Colombo Stock Exchange’s capitalization and its the only Sri Lankan stock with an ADR (listed in Luxembourg).
As for other potential Sri Lankan investment benchmarks, foreign investors should note that the All Share Price Index (ASPI) measures the movement of share prices for all listed companies on the Colombo Stock Exchange and the S&P Sri Lanka 20 Index (S&P SL20) follows the performance of 20 leading publicly traded companies plus there are also some 20 sector indices.
An investor with a very high tolerance for risk could have made between 400% to 600%+ had they invested in the All Share Price Index at least a decade ago when the country was still deeply mired in civil war. Moreover, the Index has gained some 170% since the official end of hostilities (the period from May 18, 2009 to December 2013) albeit its performance over the last year has been rather mixed as it has been underperforming the MSCI Frontier Markets 100 Index but outperforming the MSCI Emerging Markets Index.
Otherwise, investors should note that the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) is one of the most modern stock exchanges in South Asia as its equipped with a fully automated trading platform while foreign investors generally being freely permitted to invest in investments listed on the exchange with the repatriation of proceeds taking place through Share Investment External Rupee Accounts (SIERA) opened with licensed commercial banks. Moreover, income from stock investments (such as interest, dividends and capital gains) is not subject to any Exchange Control Regulations by the Sri Lankan Government.
So how can a foreign retail investor invest in the Sri Lankan stock market? Unfortunately, there are very few ways right now to directly invest in Sri Lanka through ADRs, ETFs or funds listed on exchanges based in other countries.
A quick Google search does come up with the Sri Lanka fund, a Cayman Islands domiciled fund that is registered as a restricted foreign scheme with the Monetary Authority of Singapore. The Sri Lanka fund is an open ended fund denominated in US Dollars that primarily invests in equities and other equity linked securities with exposure to the Sri Lankan market. However, the Sri Lanka fund has a high minimum investment requirement of $50,000 along with a subsequent investment of $10,000, annual management fees of 1.5% and its unlisted - meaning its not really suitable for most retail investors. On the ETF front, Global X, a New York-based ETF issuer behind some of the most popular new ETFs of the last several years (including commodity and emerging market ETFs), did file plans with the SEC back in 2011 for a number of country-specific international equity ETFs, including ETFs targeting frontier markets like Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Nigeria and Sri Lanka. Their proposed FTSE Sri Lanka ETF would track the FTSE Sri Lanka Index by having at least 80% of its total assets in the securities of the Underlying Index and in ADRs or GDRs based on the securities in the Underlying Index - giving investors exposure to some of the biggest companies based in the country. However and as of late 2013, the FTSE Sri Lanka ETF had yet to launch and there is no word on when or if it will actually created. The final part of investing in Sri Lanka will be published next issue.
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]


TAT unveils new campaign to promote “honeyteering”

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has kicked start a new campaign which will specifically attract honeymooners to come to Thailand for volunteering activities, aiming to raise the tourism income to over 1 trillion baht this year.
In an attempt to achieve the target of boosting revenue from foreign tourists by 13% to over 1 trillion baht, TAT Deputy Governor Sukree Sithivanich presided over the launch of a new campaign entitled “Honeyteering: We got so much love to give”. The campaign’s objective is to trigger the honeymoon market by promoting a new traveling trend called “honeyteering”, in which newly-weds take part in volunteering work while on their honeymoon.
Under a budget of about 10 million baht, the TAT is collaborating with Thai Airways International and hotels in offering volunteering packages to honeymooners as part of this campaign. In the initial stage, the campaign will be carried out in four popular tourist destinations, namely Samui, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Hua Hin.
Public awareness of the campaign is being raised through online media as related information has been made available at www. honeyteeringthailand.com.
The honeymoon market is considered important to the Thai tourism sector due to its high purchasing power and long period of stay. Honeymooners being targeted by this new campaign are those from China, Japan and Europe. (NNT)


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Nok Air cancels Chiang Mai – Mae Hong Son route

Chiang Mai readies for sustainable tourism development

Bangkok Airways signs codeshare with Qantas

Personnel training key to AEC readiness

Land price down as court rejects bill

Thailand still needs mega infrastructure development projects

New cars and pretty girls; Northern Auto Show starts March 28

Scania opens new center in Chiang Mai

Rotary releases US$35.9 million to fight polio in Africa and Asia

Sri Lanka: The Next Hot Frontier Market for retail invetors

TAT unveils new campaign to promote “honeyteering”