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Vol. XIV No. 6
Friday February 10 - February 16, 2006

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by Saichon Paewsoongnern

 


TRAVEL & TOURISM
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]: 

THAI urged to open new direct flight to Sapporo city to boost tourism

Central sets sights further

PM reaffirms Suvarnabhumi Airport to open late June

Vietnam launched its new marketing campaign, Vietnam – The Hidden Charm, at ATF 2006

ASEAN faces room crunch

South Australia unveils new branding

THAI urged to open new direct flight to Sapporo city to boost tourism

Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Somkid Jatusripitak revealed that the government would accelerate negotiating with Thai Airways International Public Company Limited (THAI) to open a new direct flight to the northern city of Sapporo in Japan in hopes of attracting more Japanese tourists.
Presiding over a Thai trade fair held for the first time in Sapporo City on Hokkaido Island to boost products, services and tourism under the Thainess to the World program, he said THAI would be persuaded to open the new direct flight between Bangkok and Sapporo to facilitate the import of Thai products for sale there.
The flight would also serve to open a new market for tourism since Sapporo is a small city where the economy enjoys impressive growth and a population of more than 2 million has high purchasing power.
Last year, 1.8 million foreign tourists visited Sapporo, while only 30,000 people in the city made a tour to Thailand due to lack of public relations and direct flights. (TNA)


Central sets sights further

Central Group is planning to expand its hotel business overseas, with an entry to neighboring South-east Asian countries in the first phase of its growth strategy.
Central Hotels & Resorts vice-president of sales and marketing, Chris Bailey, said studies of possible sites were ongoing in Indonesia and Vietnam. The hotels would be built alongside shopping plazas that would be developed by affiliate Central Retail Corporation.
“There is definite interest (in going ahead with the plan). Obviously, sister companies and affiliates are also involved, so there are a lot of parts to the jigsaw. It’s not a standalone thing for the hotel company. But if all the pieces fit together well, Central Group is very serious about this move,” he said.
He said strategically it was the right time for Central Group to start looking at business opportunities outside Thailand. The group has enjoyed strong occupancies in its hotels and resorts while shopping revenue has been high.
He added: “We’ve got three projects under way and one that just opened. We have a lot of work on our hands in Thailand. We have very large projects coming on line in the next couple of years.
“But having said that, we have an established structure in Thailand. From a personal point of view, expanding regionally would add a whole new dimension to what we do.”
Central Hotels & Resorts opened a 192-room deluxe property in Krabi in December. Under construction are Central World, a major convention centre/hotel development in downtown Bangkok that is slated to open in the fourth quarter of 2007, as well as the 550-room Central Pattaya Resort and 360-room Central Karon Beach Resort in Phuket. These two properties are scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2008.
The company also has existing hotels in Bangkok, Hua Hin, Koh Samui, Hat Yai, Chiang Mai and Mae Sot. (TTG Asia)


PM reaffirms Suvarnabhumi Airport to open late June

Repairs to the burned catering kitchens section of Thai Airways International Public Company Limited (THAI) at Bangkok’s new Suvarnabhumi International Airport will be completed within five months time, before the airport is open for commercial purposes, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said.
In his weekly radio address, Thaksin said only 30 percent of the facility was damaged during the fire and only some parts of the structure need heavy repair. Repairs will be completed within five months, and the airport will be open for commercial service in late June.
THAI has prepared a contingency plan in case repairs are not complete in time for the scheduled opening, he said. Thaksin, however, expressed concern that the airport’s opening could be delayed if the baggage trolley system connected with innovative explosive detection equipment fails to pass tests. So far, he said, more time is needed to improve the system. (TNA)


Vietnam launched its new marketing campaign, Vietnam – The Hidden Charm, at ATF 2006

The campaign is part of Vietnam’s National Tourism Action Program 2006-2010, which aims to attract six million international arrivals and 25 million domestic movements by 2010. Under the program, Vietnam will target 10 to 20 percent annual increases in visitor arrivals.

Pham Tu: blossoming appeal

Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) vice-chairman, Dr Pham Tu, said the new marketing campaign, with a lotus bud as the logo and The Hidden Charm slogan, emphasizes there is a lot more to Vietnam than meets the eye. The lotus bud symbolizes the blossoming of Vietnam’s appeal to the international market and the fact there are so many more attractions tourists have yet to explore fully in Vietnam.
VNAT Tourism Promotion Department director, Pham Huu Minh said, “We have a lot of varied destinations, culture, charm and history. The country has a perfect balance – mountain and sea, different climates in the north and the south, village culture and city life.”
The campaign targets Vietnam’s traditional markets – China, Japan, the US, South Korea, Canada, ASEAN, and Western Europe – as well as emerging markets such as Russia and Eastern European countries. Minh said Vietnam would attend international travel fairs, hold fam trips for media and travel agents, and launch TV advertising campaigns on major networks.
Aside from Vietnam’s traditional attractions such as Halong Bay, Danang and Hue, VNAT will also push its new archaeological site in Hanoi and the Space of Gong Culture in the central highlands of Vietnam. The cultural space of gongs covers several provinces and nearly 17 ethnic minority groups consider the gongs as the privileged language between men, divinities and the supernatural world.
Under the National Tourism Action Program, Vietnam’s tourism marketing activities will focus on promoting unique products, and highlight its heroic history and distinctively traditional culture. Other elements include diversifying and improving the quality of tourism products, conserving and preserving environmental resources to ensure sustainable tourism development, training and developing human resources, and strengthening the efficiency of the state administration on tourism.
Vietnam welcomed more than 3.4 million visitors last year and aims to get 3.8 million in 2006. Its top 17 markets, including North Asia, Australia, North America, Western Europe, and ASEAN, posted growth rates from 96.7 percent to 205.4 percent. Since May 2005, Japanese, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Finnish citizens no longer require visas to visit Vietnam. (TTG Asia)


ASEAN faces room crunch

Hotel rates are expected to rise and some destinations will get reprieve from new inventory

Tour operators are having to manage a room crunch in several ASEAN destinations, but it is not likely to hobble growth as traffic will be diverted to other places, or remain and bear a higher price.
In the Philippines, rooms are scarce in Manila, Cebu and Boracay in the November to March peak season, and when conventions are in town. Tour operators can sometimes divert business to Northern Palawan, Badian and Puerto Princesa, but Annset Holidays President/General Manager Serafina Joven said, “Sometimes if you take too long to confirm the rooms, the clients either cancel or go somewhere else.”
Marsman Drysdale Travel tourism services director, Pedro Young, said when Cebu was full, he moved his clients to Bohol and Davao. He said, “Once conventions come in, we have to fight for rooms for our clients because event organizers block all the rooms.”
The room crunch will be eased with the opening of new hotels in Cebu this year and in Boracay next year.
Singapore is also where rooms are scarce. US-ASEAN Business Council events manager, Cheryle Davis said, “It is getting pretty challenging getting rooms. In any case, as we are dealing with business travelers, we are willing to pay higher prices for the rooms and will not divert traffic.”
Denver-based Kim’s World Travel’s president, Kim-Fong Sheremeta said, “Rooms are getting tight in Singapore. Just last week, I was told that I could not get four rooms in Swissôtel the Stamford in March because of an event. Hotel rates are increasing but Singapore is still a good buy. If rates get too much, I may sell other destinations but it depends on each customer.”
Vacation Singapore inbound marketing director, Helen Goh said, “We normally like to promote leisure programs, but now we can’t do it because we can’t get room allotments. Even if rooms are available, rates are high, and travelers who come to Singapore on transit to Australia or New Zealand may just opt to stay at the airport rather than take a short break in the city.
According to Central Hotels and Resorts sales & marketing vice-president, Chris Bailey, Bangkok’s inventory is tight all the way through to the first quarter of 2007, when demand will really peak with high-season traffic and corporate travel. Fortunately, new inventory is coming in by summer 2007.
The pressure will be on wholesalers who have been enjoying low rates on good properties. This is set to change because the rates are starting to be in line with the rest of the region.
Japan’s ST World’s contracting manager, Yoshihisa Masuda agreed, “The room situation is worst in Bangkok where there are problems with rooms (three- and four-star) year-round. Almost every market including Russia, the UK, Japan and Korea like to go to Bangkok. Therefore, we will pay more to go to Bangkok. We will look for other category of hotels if the three-star hotels are very tight.”
In Vietnam, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are squeezed from January to March and October to December.
Vietravel sales and marketing manager, Tran Thanh Phong said, “This year, it is going to be worse with the APEC conference taking place in November. Hotel prices have increased from US$60 to US$70 to more than US$100, and even reaching US$120 during the period.”
SASCO Travel sales and marketing manager, Renate Hoffmann said rooms in the five- and four-star categories in other areas of Vietnam were getting popular. “Phu Quoc Island, for example, is becoming more popular, and there is only one four-star hotel there,” she said.
In Saigon, there are some 3,000 five-star and 4,000 four-star hotel rooms, and no new hotel developments. (TTG Asia)


South Australia unveils new branding

The new brand and logo for South Australia has been revealed with the tagline - South Australia, A brilliant blend. This replaces the previous tourism marketing campaigns - Discover the Secrets of South Australia and more recent Rediscover the Unwinding Roads.
South Australia’s tourism minister, Jane Lomax-Smith, said South Australia is the only state that will have one overarching consumer brand to market South Australia locally, interstate and overseas. The new campaign will push the state as an unspoilt and unconventional destination. (TTG Asia)


 


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