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Tourism by boat to Thai capital, island resorts to be promoted

January 14, 2015

Thailand plans to promote tourism by boat to its capital city as well as coastal and island resorts, officials said on Tuesday.


Thai Minister of Tourism & Sports Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul has instructed ministry officials to lay out plans to support the tourist industry which will arrange sight-seeing trips to varied tourist spots along a major river or in the sea with the uses of barges, sailboats and other luxury vessels.

The tourism by boat will attract a large number of visitors and raise a considerable sum of earnings to Bangkok’s riverside spots as well as coastal and island resorts in the provinces where boats are considered the most convenient and popular transport, the officials said.

The destinations along the river or at the coastal and island resorts designed to be promoted by the Ministry of Tourism & Sports and the Tourism Authority of Thailand include the Andaman Sea area, the upper part of the Gulf of Thailand, the Koh Samui island area and the Chao Phraya River area.

The Andaman Sea area covering the coastal southern provinces of Phuket, Krabi, Trang and Satun. No less than 21 million foreigners reportedly visited those tourist spots last year, generating more than 9 billion U.S. dollars in tourism-related earnings.

The number of tourists would likely increase if they were rapidly and conveniently transported by boats plying those coastal and island resorts or taking them to Malaysia’s Langkawi islands off Satun’s shores, the officials said.

While tourists may usually travel by air to major island resorts such as Phuket, they will be suggested to visit neighboring spots by boat which can keep one island connected to another as well as to shore, they said.

Trawlers owned by local fishermen might probably be renovated and turned into sight-seeing boats for tourists in addition to yachts and other seafaring vessels, they said.

“The government should push for the construction of new marinas to moor sailboats in Phuket or other areas on the shores of the Andaman Sea as part of the plan to promote tourism by boat,” said Tourism Council of Thailand President Itthirit Kinglek.

For instance, he said, Phuket only has had a few marinas and more are needed to meet the growing demands for tourism by boat.

The upper part of the Gulf of Thailand covering Pattaya and Koh Chang island. Yachts and other luxury boats will be used to accommodate visitors to the world-renowned seaside resorts and nearby islands.

Instead of tour buses or other land-based transportation, the visitors will be shuttled by boats between Pattaya and Koh Chang or other tourist spots along the eastern shores.

The Koh Samui island area where visitors will travel aboard sailboats or other luxury vessels to the island and its archipelago in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand.

Part of Koh Samui’s archipelago are Koh Pa-ngan, Koh Tao and Koh Angtong islands, among others.

The Chao Phraya River area where visitors will be given a guided boat ride to varied tourist spots along the country’s largest river.

Thai travel agents and tour firms will be encouraged and supported by government agencies to help promote such planned tourism-by-boat campaigns, the officials added.


Chinese flocking to South-east Asian destinations for Golden Week

January 13, 2015

WARM and relaxing South-east Asian destinations are preferred by Chinese outbound tourists for the upcoming Spring Festival Golden Week from February 18 to 24.


Outbound travel agencies across China are reportedly busy with reservations since mid-December, with many indicating that island destinations are the most attractive in South-east Asia.

Mao Sairong, assistant manager, Wuxi-based Jiangsu Kanghui Travel Service, told TTG Asia e-Daily: “Bali (and the Maldives) are already sold out, but we still have plenty of Phuket tours to offer, because there are seasonal charter flights between Wuxi and Phuket.”

Bangkok is the leading South-east Asian destination for outbound China travels for Golden Week, according to ForwardKeys’ air reservation database as of January 3, 46 days ahead of the festival.

The Thai capital is also by far the only city among the top five enjoying year-on-year growth (19 per cent) in current bookings, followed by Singapore, Phuket, Bali, and Chiang Mai.

However, Bali is suffering a 24 per cent year-on-year decrease in early-bird bookings, unlike the year before.


“About 35 per cent of arrivals to Bali during 2014’s Chinese New Year Golden Week were booked within 45 days (ahead of the first travelling date), while destinations in Thailand saw way more cancellations than bookings,” said ForwardKeys CEO, Olivier Jager.

2014 a ‘mixed bag’ for hotels in the region

January 12, 2015

Cushman & Wakefield has published HotelViews 2015 – its annual report covering hotel market performance in 18 cities across Asia, describing performance in Southeast Asia as “a mixed bag”, due in part to political uncertainty in Thailand.


In the first eight months of 2014, the report states, the Asia Pacific region welcomed 5 per cent more international tourists (overnight visitors) compared with the same period in 2013, with more than 1.1 billion tourists expected by the year-end.

According to the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the two international stars were South Asia and North America, which both showed growth of 8pc.

Arrival growth in Southeast Asia was however, hit by regional geopolitics and negative reactions to aviation incidents.

Southeast Asian posted arrival growth of 2pc despite previous robust growth in 2012 and 2013. This, in turn, pulled down wider Asia Pacific growth to 5pc from January to August 2014 compared with 7pc in over the same period in 2013.

Hotel performance across the region was a ‘mixed bag’. Geopolitical instability in Vietnam, political uncertainty in Thailand and Hong Kong, and negative reactions to aviation incidents dented demand.

Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore experienced softer arrival figures due to these events and the inclination for multi-city itineraries.

As a result, Bangkok hotels took a battering, with occupancies expected to close 2014 down by 15.1pc. KL is likely to be down by 2pc and Singapore by 1.5pc.

The report forecasts that Average Occupancy Rate in Bangkok will end 2014 at 63pc, down 11 points from 2013, when AOR was 74pc.

It predicts, “As the Bangkok hotel market has been particularly impacted by prolonged political tensions from 2013 to 2014, major declines in occupancy (then ADR) have been seen since the strong performance witnessed in the preceding year.

The market has since responded by collaborating to promote the city and reassure travellers that all is ‘business-as-usual’, and relative stability has led to quiet improvements in sentiment.

“In a positive move to boost the Thai travel and tourism industry, the Immigration Bureau has allowed citizens of 48 countries and one territory to get a 30-day extension of their stay in Thailand after the expiry of their normal period of stay.

“While international arrivals have yet to fully recover, Bangkok has a history as a resilient market, hotel performance is expected to rebound strongly as concerns … dissipate, with a healthy revival of ADR and occupancy in the medium term.”

The report predicts a revival in 2015 in Bangkok AOR to 67pc, with average daily rates (ADR) climbing to B3,450 and revenue per available room (RevPAR) to B2,309.

In contrast with Bangkok, Indonesia is the star, with demand in both Jakarta and Bali continuing to push up ADR and drive growth in RevPAR.

Singapore at US$207, Hong Kong at US$193 and Sydney at US$185 are expected to top the region with the highest ADRs in 2014.

In local currencies however, the markets with the fastest-growing rates year-on-year in 2014 are expected to be Jakarta at ID Rupiah 1.2 million, at 15.0pc growth, Tokyo at JP Yen 16,465 at 7.1pc growth and Ho Chi Minh at VN Dong 1.9 million with growth at 6.5pc.

Strong Occupancy growth to 64pc in Shanghai is also expected to boost RevPAR to CN Yuan 417, a 12pc growth over RevPAR in 2013.

Continuing economic growth and enhanced flight connectivity remain strong fundamentals for future growth. Asia Pacific’s growing and increasingly affluent middle-class is the key driver for this growth.

The report can be downloaded by going to

Phuket International Boat Show 2015 biggest showcase yet

January 9, 2015

‘With 51 boats on display, together with luxury cars, real estate, marine products and services and more, makes this the largest Phuket International Boat Show ever – PIMEX 2015’


The 12th Phuket International Boat Show (PIMEX) presented by Thailand Elite was officially opened today at a ceremony presided over by the Governor of Phuket Province, Mr. Nisit Jansomwong. Showcasing Phuket’s marine and leisure credentials to the world, PIMEX is held during Phuket’s peak tourism season from eighth to 11th January, at the award-winning Royal Phuket Marina. Organisers expect a strong visitor turnout from Thailand and overseas, in particular Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Russia.

‘The line-up of exhibitors at this year’s PIMEX, both in-the-water and onshore, is one of the best yet, a strong sign of the strength of Thailand’s marine and lifestyle industry. Yachting and lifestyle brands from around the world are displaying here in Phuket at PIMEX, underscoring PIMEX’s position as the consumer boat show in the region and Phuket as the marine playground for Asia,’ said Mr. Andy Dowden, PIMEX Show Director.

With over 6 Billion Baht of product on display, PIMEX 2015 is set to break records.

At 51, this year sees one of the largest boat displays at PIMEX ever. From the smallest at less than 20 foot and priced under 2,000,000 Baht, the boats grow in size and price with seventeen over 20 metres in length including large motor yachts from Sunseeker, Princess, Monte Carlo and Sanlorenzo. The largest boat on display this year is a Custom Line NEXT 112 superyacht valued at approximately 430,000,000 Baht and which forms part of a four boat display by Lee Marine.

Two iconic British yacht brands, Sunseeker and Princess Yachts, are showing in numbers this year. Sunseeker, popularly known for being James Bond’s yacht of choice, have four large powerboats on display including the stunning Predator 92, while Princess Yachts are showing four boats in the water as well as brokerage and charter offerings through local dealer Boat Lagoon Yachting.


Elsewhere in the marina are boats from Cranchi, Majesty, Gulf Craft, Azimut, Bavaria, Moody and Wider Yachts Asia. Derani Yachts have expanded to a new location at the end of Docks C and D and are showing a number of boats, the largest being a San Lorenzo 72, while Simpson Marine have a large display with six boats including a selection from the Monte Carlo shipyard, a brand which they launched into Asia with much success at PIMEX 2014.

Ideally suited to cruising the Andaman region, multihulls are growing in popularity and this is reflected with an increase in the number of multihulls on display this year. Multihull Solutions are showcasing popular designs from Fountaine Pajot and Privilege while Northrop & Johnson’s display includes the new Thai-built solar power-assisted luxury catamaran Heliotrope 65.

Onshore, the exhibitor line-up mirrors that of the in-water display both in terms of size and quality, and also in variety. Luxury auto brands Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, Aston Martin, BMW and Mini are all debuting at PIMEX, and are joined by a collection of luxury real estate, marine and lifestyle products and services.

‘The show continues to develop and I am happy to say it looks great again this year. We’ve improved the design and layout of the show for both exhibitors and visitors and our marketing has stretched all around the world. I’m looking forward to a busy and successful four days for all,’ added Dowden.

PIMEX is open Thursday 8th January to Saturday 10th January from 12:00 – 20:00, and on Sunday 11th January from 12:00 – 18:00. Entry is free.

Rouble trouble to slash Russian arrivals to Thailand by up to 65%

January 8, 2015

RUSSIAN arrivals to Thailand could plummet by up to 65 per cent this year as a result of Russia’s political and economic crisis compounded by the collapse of the rouble at the end of last year, said a major inbound operator.


Kubilay Atac, general manager of Pegas Touristik Thailand, said arrivals halved at the end of 2014 and will likely slide further to 65 per cent.

While Atac had predicted the crisis, the devaluation during the peak season was a “big slap in the face” as it was “the one period we had to recover losses from last year”.

Pegas, which brought 506,000 Russians to Thailand in 2014, is now forecasting between 150,000 and 165,000 arrivals this year. “I don’t think Thailand will receive more than 500,000 to 600,000 Russians this year, certainly not the 1.9 million the Tourism Authority of Thailand predicted for last year.”

Bill Barnett, managing director of C9 Hotelworks, said the worse is yet to come and that Thailand was paying a price for its over-reliance on mass tourism. “The full impact won’t be felt until peak season 2015/16, as a lot of packages (arriving in November and December) were booked and prepaid in early 2014.”

He added that hoteliers would have to offer discounts of 20 to 30 per cent to fill the shortfall. “We can be sure that RevPAR will come under a concerted attack. It’s too early to say by how much it will decline, but it will be significant.”

EU sanctions over Russia’s involvement in the crises in Ukraine and Crimea have dragged on the country’s already flagging economy. The situation was exacerbated by the recent collapse of oil prices which sent the rouble spiralling and significantly cut Russian spending power.

Atac said Russia’s crisis would affect all markets in the region, including Bali, Vietnam and Thailand.

Thailand ranked as one of world’s best places to retire to in 2015

January 6, 2015

Thailand is celebrating the New Year with good news. The country has just been listed as one of the world’s 25 best places to retire to in 2015 by International Living, a North American-based magazine for retirees.


International Living’s latest Annual Global Retirement Index released on 1 January, 2015, listed Thailand at number 10 with a total score of 84.6. The report combined several real-world insights about buying and renting, benefits and discounts, cost of living, fitting in, entertainment and amenities, health care, infrastructure and climate of each of the 25 countries.

Mr. Thawatchai Arunyik, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand said, “The International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index lists Thailand as a place with low-cost health care and lots to do. In the index report, it said ‘Thailand combines the best of authentic Asian cuisine and culture with enough North American influences to help you feel at home’, which is rightly so as the Thai people are very true to our culture, yet we are also known for our accepting nature and hospitality. Thais are ready to be a good host to all our guests at any time.”

According to the International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index, thriving expat communities already exist in the larger cities; such as, Bangkok and Chiang Mai, and resort areas like Phuket and Hua Hin. The index report quoted Steve Le Poidevin, who relocated to Chiang Mai from Canada, as saying that “Here in Chiang Mai, it is easy to make friends if you make the effort. There are lots of opportunities to get involved with both locals and other expats…with a Chiang Mai Expat Club that meets monthly, as well as many expat clubs that get together weekly.”

While Thai food and culture are among the major draws for expat retirees, Thailand is also named as “an outdoor-lover’s paradise, with a rich mosaic of rainforests, exotic wildlife, and breath-taking temples.”

When it comes to cost, Thailand is listed as the place for “highly-affordable” homes and “a relatively low cost of living” in which the index gave an example that a couple can live comfortably in Chiang Mai on a modest budget of US$1,500 a month. Despite the low-cost, Thailand is praised for providing “excellent health care” throughout the country. Here, basic doctor’s visits and dental procedures (such as cleanings and fillings) can cost as little as US$30, while a basic health insurance plan starts at around US$300.

Thailand’s is regarded as a welcoming country for people to retire on a long-term basis, and the retirement visa does not stipulate an annual minimum stay. In addition, retirees are eligible for visas at the relatively young age of 50, and there are no additional financial requirements for their dependents.

Retirement visas are issued when applicants offer proof of income, which currently stands at around 65,000 Thai Baht (around US$2,100) a month.

Click to read the full article on: The World’s Best Places to Retire to in 2015.

10% of Phuket beaches set aside for mat and umbrella operators

December 23, 2014

Ten per cent of the space on beaches in Muang District is to be set aside for beach mats and umbrella operators, it was announced yesterday (December 22).


The announcement was made at a follow-up meeting chaired by Vice-Governor Somkiet Sangkhaosutthirak after Governor Nisit Jansomwong’s approval for beach operators to rent out umbrellas and mats in specific zones.

“Today we are focusing on 12 beaches around Muang District. The zoning will be planned by local authorities starting tomorrow (December 23).”

He ordered that 10 per cent of each beach will be open for mats, umbrellas, and will be strictly controlled by a municipal official who will check the area regularly.

“The zone will be used by listed operators from 9am to 4pm.”

The rental price for umbrellas and mats will be fixed for the entire island and will announced by this Friday (December 26).

V/Gov Somkiet expressed his confidence in the new zoning scheme, saying that local operators will control it.

“Registered operators will work together to keep outsiders from working on the beach [illegally]. They recognise the importance of the new scheme and the importance of controlling it.”

After the meeting, a group of masseuses complained to the Vice Governor about the changes that had been made since the previous meeting chaired by the Governor.

“We were told we were allowed to bring mattresses to the beach for massage services, but now it’s illegal again,” said Rattana Sae’lee.

“We bring mattresses to make the customers comfortable. That’s better for them than lying on a mat.”

The Vice Governor and Governor plan to discuss the issue again and come up with an answer by this Friday (December 26).

“We will try to help beach operators for a few months, and then we will re-evaluate the zoning scheme.

“We plan to cooperate with local universities and conduct research to see if everyone – local officials, beach operators, local people, tourists – is satisfied,” he said.