Thailand Bulletin For Friday, August 24
Roundup of Thailand news with AJW
BKK Weather 33C; Hot, cloudy, rain; Euro:US 1.2663, Euro:Baht 40.22, SET Index: 1232
Kittiratt says he "white lies" to help country. MP demands faster probe of son's killing. Ex-warder, wife held for prison drug smuggling.
UN chief to attend Iran's non-aligned meeting. Australia to admit more refugees. Syria shells rebels inside Damascus. Gadhafi’s son to be tried in Libya.
- TAT - FREE WIFI: Free wireless Internet access is expected to be made available at tourist destinations throughout the country, starting from the beginning of next month.
The Ministry of Tourism and Sports is preparing to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology to provide free WiFi access via hotspot locations in tourist areas, with the pilot project set to commence at Khaosan Road in September.
The free WiFi scheme is one of the Yingluck Shinawatra administration’s priority projects, aimed at accommodating the need for global contacts of tourists.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Surapol Svetaseni said the agency is offering the service to make travel easier, by enabling international visitors to stay connected to their home or office and to receive additional tourist information online.
TAT is also set to launch new smartphone tourism applications and to install AR and QR codes at popular tourist spots.
- QANTAS: Qantas has scrapped an $8.5 billion order for Boeing 787 Dreamliners for its troubled international arm, after the group reported its first loss since it was privatized almost 2 decades ago.
- OTA: Douglas Quinby, Senior Research Director at PhoCusWright, said: "OTAs have taken advantage of the fragmented hotel supply in APAC, and their importance as a counter-cyclical channel rose during the global financial crisis.
“While OTAs have grown as a popular medium to shop hotels online – complete with traveler reviews, photographs, and other location details – supplier websites, particularly chain hotels, have increased online bookings through loyalty programs.
“OTA hotel gross bookings were $13.5 billion in 2011 versus $5.6 billion for supplier direct; the latter will outpace OTAs in 2012 and 2013, as increase in branded supply will allow chains to push online direct sales.
“Brands are increasing their spend on online marketing, including ad placements on meta-search where referrals may come directly to suppliers. Also, they are luring customers through loyalty program benefits, and best rate guarantees (failing which they will reimburse the rate difference).
“But with a highly-fragmented hotel landscape and offline booking, OTAs and – yes – traditional travel agencies and wholesalers, will continue to play a meaningful role.”
- WINE - TRINITY HILLS: Hawkes Bay is a temperate, maritime region on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, situated at latitude 40° south. It is a unique region with a large number of different soil types and micro-climates, yielding many and varied wine styles. The majority of Trinity Hill’s grape harvest comes from the unique gravel soils and micro-climate of the Gimblett Gravels region, in the lee of Roy’s Hill. The soils are deep river gravels, left by the Ngaruroro River as it changed course over many thousands of years. These free-draining gravels can be more than 100 meters deep. Their low fertility, along with the ability to control vine vigor by controling soil moisture, give small crops with highly-concentrated flavors and aromas. This is New Zealand’s premier red wine area.
- PHUKET: A 15-year-old Phuket boy killed his brutal drunken stepfather with a tomahawk while the man slept, Phuket police said today. Family life was brutal, Chalong police in southern Phuket were told. The stepfather would often drink heavily, then beat the mother. The boy said his stepfather was often drunk. Having seen his mother beaten time and time again, the boy took to his stepfather with the tomahawk.
- HOTEL GUESTS’ FEEDBACK: GuestComment plans to change the entire landscape of hotel reviews by connecting hotel management and guests at a much earlier stage and not waiting to read a negative review online via a third party website such as TripAdvisor. By placing GuestComment's iPad-powered kiosks in a prime location, a hotel could encourage and capture real-time feedback. Hotel guests could provide a review, rate various hotel revenue departments, and answer the golden question (How likely are you to recommend our hotel to others?) all while they're still staying at the hotel.
Using the kiosk, technology would then send the hotel management an email or SMS alert. Immediate feedback would allow staff to resolve issues immediately.
The guest feels like they are heard, the hotel management receives the real time feedback it craves, and the tone of any subsequent Tripadvisor or Yelp review becomes less hostile.
- PHUKET PROSPECTS: C9 Hotelworks, a consulting firm specializxing in hotels, tourism, and property development in Asia Pacific, still sees bright prospects for tourism in Phuket despite the fire that ravaged Tiger Pub and killed four people last week.
C9 Hotelworks reported an 11% surge in airport arrivals in the first 6 months of this year for a total of 2.32 million passengers to Phuket.
The destination's hospitality industry chalked up a healthy 75% occupancy rate.
An increase in direct international flights set the stage for a record forecast of 9.3 million passengers traveling through the airport this year, with the improved access reflected in rising hotel occupancy rates from January to June, as revenue per available room shot up by 8%.
Managing Director Bill Barnett said sustained direct access to the island is having a major impact on the hospitality sector.
New flights from China and Russia, along with regional low-cost carriers, are driving a new era of mass tourism to the island, benefiting the hotel sector.
The top growth markets are China, Eastern Europe, and Malaysia, increasing by 66%, 33%, and 17%, respectively, year-on-year in the first half. C9 predicts US$315 million in hotel transactions this year.
Hotel groups benefiting the most from the boom include Singapore's Lum Chang Development, Thailand's Minor Hotel Group, Malaysia's TA Global Berhad, and Hawaii's Outrigger Hotels & Resorts, all of which have acquired significant hotel properties this year.
Despite the upward trends, resort destinations in Southeast Asia continue to face a mounting infrastructure dilemma, said Mr. Barnett.
Between now and 2015, a total of 5,080 new rooms are under development, reported C9.
- PEKING DUCK: Peking Duck is a famous duck dish from Beijing that has been prepared since the imperial era, and is now considered one of China's national dishes.
The dish is prized for the thin, crisp skin, with authentic versions of the dish serving mostly the skin and little meat, sliced in front of the diners by the cook. Ducks bred specially for the dish are slaughtered after 65 days and seasoned before being roasted in a closed or hung oven. The skin is eaten with pancakes, scallion, and hoisin, or sweet bean sauce. Diners wishing to try this dish could not do better than try a delicious authentic duck at the Garden Court Restaurant of the Chaophya Park Hotel Bangkok, considered by many to be the best in the “City of Angels.”
- SYDNEY AIRPORT PARKING: Some frequent travelers say they are suffering bill shock after parking fees at Sydney Airport rose by as much as 100 percent, to cost more than a plane ticket.
- Photos of Prince Harry naked during a reported game of strip billiards - published on a US gossip website - have been defended as being merely "letting off steam." The prince was just behaving like a typical young British man, said Kate Fox, who is a social anthropologist at the Social Issues Research Center.