Thailand Bulletin For Friday, September 7
Roundup of Thailand news with AJW
BKK Weather 30C; Hot, cloudy, rain; Euro:US 1.2534, Euro:Baht 39.39, SET Index: 1251
Chalerm blames Vietnam, Myanmar for drug problems. Thai fencer wins 3rd gold in Paralympics. Minor flooding in Rangsit. Government's drainage test scheduled for the eastern part of Bangkok today has been called off, following days of continuous heavy rain.
Girl survives in French Alp massacre. Obama makes “a better place” promise. Aleppo war rages on. Russia warns against attacking Iran.
-TAT MIRACLE CARD: The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is encouraging visitors to Thailand to make a point of asking their travel agents and tour operators for a “Miracle Thailand Card” to help them take advantage of discounted shopping during their stay.
TAT Governor Suraphon Svetasreni said the TAT is supporting this initiative, launched by one of Thailand’s leading banks, the Krung Thai Bank (KTB), in partnership with the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA), to help visitors get better value for money from their shopping experience.
The Miracle Thailand card can also be of great use to convention and exhibition delegates visiting Thailand during the period of validity.
There are also discounts for shopping, life insurance, and loss-of-sight coverage up to 1 million Baht, and travel accident medical expense coverage of up to 500,000 Baht.
The Miracle Thailand Card is available from Krung Thai Bank branches, KTB currency exchange booths throughout Thailand, members of ATTA and TAT offices. The card is valid until the December 31, 2012.
-REMBRANDT TOP RESTAURANT: Bangkok's most celebrated Indian restaurant takes top spot in Bangkok's Top Tables Guide 2012, a listing of the best restaurants in Bangkok by BK Magazine.
Rang Mahal, located on the top floor of the popular Rembrandt Hotel, received consistently favorable reviews from in-house food and travel writers, as well as foodies, restaurateurs, and suppliers in terms of quality, service, atmosphere, and good food to provide an eating experience to rival the best Bangkok has to offer.
-WELCOME TO YORKSHIRE: Visit England has defended itself against criticism from the Yorkshire tourist board that Yorkshire was “snubbed” in the latest funding rounds.
Welcome to Yorkshire has complained to the government after Visit England refused to give it any of the money set aside to help boost tourism, because it claimed Yorkshire was not a “destination.”
Visit England has allocated £500,000 each to York and Leeds to help promote both Yorkshire cities, but Welcome to Yorkshire said its requests for funding to promote the county as a whole had been rejected.
-PENINSULA HK: The Peninsula Hotels has launched "Peninsula Moments" a new multi-million-dollar global brand campaign, the new PenCities online travel journal, and a HK$450 million revitalization of its flagship hotel, The Peninsula Hong Kong, featuring advanced in-room technology including complimentary long-distance VOIP phone calls from guest rooms and from the hotel's Rolls-Royce fleet.
-MYANMAR MASTERCARD: MasterCard Worldwide has issued a license to a Myanmar bank, paving the way for branded cards to be issued and accepted in the country for the first time.
The license agreement with Myanmar’s Co-Operative Bank Limited, a well established commercial bank in Myanmar with the largest ATM network in the country, will see the issuing of MasterCard branded cards and the acceptance of MasterCard/Maestro/Cirrus cards by ATMs within the country.
In related news, the requirement for foreign companies to spend a minimum of $5 million is under review, especially for the tourism industry, where jobs can be created quickly. Myanmar attracted 816,369 tourists last year, compared with about 19 million in neighboring Thailand, according to government statistics.
Research by the Economist Intelligence Unit earlier this year forecast that Myanmar’s economy would expand by 5.2% in 2012-13. International air arrivals alone jumped by 63% between 2009 and 2010, and a further 32% between 2010 and 2011, more than doubling from 100,439 in 2009 to 216,861 in 2011.
President Barack Obama in July authorized US companies to invest in Myanmar for the first time in about 15 years. Thein Sein met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a July 13 business forum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, that included representatives from Google, Goldman Sachs, Boeing, and General Motors.
-GOOGLE TRAVEL: The search-engine has big plans for the travel industry as it looks ahead, according to Google spokeswoman Sandra Heikkinen.
“Searches for travel-related information are among the highest-volume queries we receive at Google. We are innovating in a number of ways to make it easier for users to search for travel information and to deliver more useful results to them,” Heikkinen said, “The online travel industry is competitive, with a range of companies that provide different solutions for users. We’ll work to continue to have productive partnerships with as many online travel companies and industry players as possible.”
“Our goal is to help people turn their intents into actions quickly, and we can help make this happen by delivering the most relevant results at the moment of interest,” said Heikkinen.
-ALOFT: Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide said it's Aloft brand will pursue growth via the conversion route.
Aloft currently has 60 properties globally.
"We see two types of opportunities as ideal candidates for an Aloft conversion: older hotels in need of a major renovation or unique, independent boutique hotels seeking a stronger brand point of view and the ability to utilize Starwood systems,” Simon Turner, Starwood's President of Global Development, said.
-iPHONE 5: Though Apple never reveals details of forthcoming products, rumors from multiple sources have provided a picture of what the new iPhone is likely to include. The new handset is likely to be significantly redesigned, with a thinner, metal case and a taller, but not wider, screen.
Part of the reason the phone is expected to be thinner is a new screen design that integrates the touch layer of the phone with the display itself.
In a move that is likely to exasperate those with a lot of docks, chargers, and other accessories, Apple is also thought to be ditching the familiar dock connector from this handset, in favor of a smaller version.
The iPhone 5 will also be one of a new generation of phones, including the Nokia Lumia 820 and 920 announced yesterday, that will use a new, 40 percent smaller nano sim. The sim card will require existing users to change their current sim when they upgrade. As with the process for changing to the current micro sim, consumers will be able to swap their existing sims over the counter in mobile networks shops and in phone retailers.
The micro-sim is 15x12x0.76 mm, compared to the nano-sim’s 12.3x8.8x0.67 mm.
The new smaller sim card allows for thinner designs and gives more space for improved cameras and battery, and is in keeping with Apple to promote the wireless Airplay technology rather than to use the existing dock connector for speakers and other accessories.
-OTA REVENUE: In a recent global review, OTAs generated 12.8 percent of hotel demand, direct bookings 24.3 percent, and GDS global distribution systems 20.2 percent.
Finding the optimal channel distribution mix for hotels has proved to be an ever-moving target for hoteliers.
Expedia collected $3.5 billion from the hotel industry on a trailing 12-month basis.
Nick Graham, Senior Director of Market Management at Expedia, said the mobile space is growing quickly and it is an area into which Expedia has invested. “Mobile is now driving a substantial portion of our (global) business,” he said.
He added, “The international customer is doing a lot on mobile. China, they’re not using the desktop. Two-thirds of mobile bookings are done same day.”
-CHA AM: New Novotel Hua Hin Cha Am Beach Resort and Spa has started welcoming guests at its 243 rooms.
Fronting the beach between Hua Hin and Cha Am, the resort is a two-and-a-half hour drive from Bangkok and 10-15 minutes away from the Hua Hin Airport. Each guestroom is guaranteed a view of the Gulf of Thailand, and free Wi-Fi access is offered throughout the property.
-QANTAS: The airline inked a new global agreement with Emirates and cancelled it's agreement with BA, which will terminate its Singapore stopover on the long-established “Kangaroo Route” commencing April 2013. Besides codesharing, Qantas will be moving its base for European flights to Dubai as part of the 10-year deal, marking the beginning of a major restructuring of flights within the airline’s network.
-AEC2015: "The tourism industry should see ASEAN integration as an opportunity, not a threat. It is an opportunity to export your tourism services and qualities. For example, Singaporeans should export their policy and procedure training. Thais should export their service ethic. Opportunities far outweigh the threats.
"Our good looking, charming, and thoughtful ASEAN student (aka the tourism industry) has the world at her feet. With strategic and technical skills training and a commitment to embrace the new, professionalize and standardize training, her potential is huge," said Willem Niemeijer, CEO, Khiri Travel Group.