Tag Archives: Thailand

Twelve people and journalist killed in Bangkok protest

Hiro Muramoto

Reuters today confirmed the death of Hiro Muramoto, a Tokyo-based Japanese national who worked as a cameraman for Reuters for more than 15 years.

Muramoto-san had been covering fighting between troops and protesters in the Rajdumnoen Road area that erupted into Bangkok’s worst political violence in 18 years.

“Reuters is dreadfully saddened by the death of our colleague Hiro Muramoto, a cameraman who was killed in the Bangkok clashes,” said David Schlesinger, Reuters Editor-in-Chief. “Journalism can be a terribly dangerous profession for those being thrust into the center of the action. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Muramoto-san’s family. All of us at Thomson Reuters mourn this terrible tragedy.

Twelve people, including three soldiers, were killed and more than 500 people were wounded in the fighting near the Phan Fah bridge and Rajdumnoen Road in Bangkok’s old quarter, a protest base near government buildings and the regional U.N. headquarters.

Hiro Muramoto was 43 years old, and is survived by his wife and two children.

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Quebecers address Child Sex Tourism

According to a study by law professor Benjamin Perrin from the University of British Columbia, at least 146 Canadian citizens have been charged with child sex offenses overseas between 1993 and 2007. Offenders, mostly men, usually travel from a rich country to a developing region such as Latin America, an area which is growing in popularity and replacing southern Asia as the main destination for sex offenders due to its low cost and close proximity.

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of tourists abusing minors abroad are not pedophiles who are only interested in young children. Rather, they are so-called “situational” offenders who have sexual relations with children because the opportunity arises through prostitution or family members. Although most abusers would not do this in their daily lives, they utilize their anonymity and the favorable exchange rates of destinations to engage in sexual acts with minors. Consequently, a high proportion of exploited minors are between the ages of 12 and 16 years old. Victims are both girls and boys.

In Canada, an extraterritorial law allows for the pursuit and prosecution of Canadians who commit sexual abuse on children abroad. Despite the recent convictions of Donald Bakker from British Columbia, as well as Armand Huard and Denis Rochefort from Quebec, Child Sex Tourism and its consequences remain fairly unknown among the Canadian population.

After an information forum on Child Sex Tourism coordinated by the International Bureau for Children’s Rights (IBCR), Thomas Cook and SkyLink Voyages, agencies from the tourism and travel industry in Quebec, on December 2, 2009 decided to act by forming a committee to address the issue. In close collaboration with the bureau, representatives created a banner with the objective to dissuade potential abusers and encourage travelers to report suspicious behaviors while abroad.

Ms. Colette Girard from Jolivac explains her commitment to the campaign: “During the forum, my colleagues and I were shocked to discover that men who have sexual relations with children or adolescents on their trips are mostly ‘average Joes’ who believe that they can do whatever they want in another country without any form of consequence. If we can influence even one individual with this campaign, we will have accomplished our goal in protecting children.”

The participants at the forum, including Vacances Tours Mont-Royal, Voyages Incursion, Jolivac, Thomas Cook, Canandes International Tours, Sunwing, Tours Chanteclerc, and SkyLink Voyages have all asserted their concern about the issue and are actively incorporating the banner into their different channels of communication (email, contracts, itinerary, website, etc.) in order to disseminate the campaign.

IBCR is pleased that this proposal came from the private sector itself and believes that these partnerships will lead to further joint initiatives. One of the main recommendations of the World Congress III against the Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents was to reinforce the collaboration between governments, NGOs, and the private sector in the fight against sexual exploitation. The IBCR is particularly grateful to Jolivac for their role in the committee and their enthusiastic partnership throughout the developmental stages of the campaign.

It is important to the bureau that this first step in the fight against Child Sex Tourism be followed by others. “We plan on enforcing this educational campaign using informative pamphlets that will be distributed in airports and the consulate offices of the main travel destinations visited by Quebecers. If funds allow, we look forward to producing an in-flight video about Child Sex Tourism. Simultaneously, the IBCR will continue developing projects in these destinations in order to change the social tolerance surrounding this issue and hence close the circle of sexual exploitation,” declared Marco Sotelo, program manager for the Prevention of Child Sex Tourism at the IBCR.

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Political unrest takes place in Thailand

The Tourism Authority of Thailand issued the following information on the political development in Thailand relative to the anti-government rallies as announced by the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) that were staged from March 12–14, 2010.

The protest has been peaceful. The rally on Sunday, March 14, was limited to the protest site at Ratchadamnoen Nok and Ratchadamnoen Klang and is expected to remain peaceful.

Life in Bangkok and all other areas of Thailand continues as normal. Tourism attractions around the city of Bangkok and in all key destinations around Thailand are not at all affected. Department stores and shopping malls in Bangkok and around Thailand are open and are operating as normal. Tourism activities in all other areas of Bangkok and around Thailand continue as usual.

Suvarnabhumi Airport and all other international and domestic airports around Thailand are open and operating as normal.

Given the large number of people expected to attend such rallies, on March 9, 2010, the Thai Cabinet approved the use of the Internal Security Act B.E. 2551 (2008) in the areas of Bangkok and certain districts of seven nearby provinces from March 11-23, 2010. These are:

AREAS OF BANGKOK:

- Nonthaburi Province
– Pathumthani Province
– Samut Sakhon Province
– Samut Prakan Province
– Nakhon Pathom Province
– Chachoengsao Province
– Ayutthaya Province

The decision to invoke the ISA is deemed necessary as a precautionary step to ensure law and order. The ISA enables security agencies – police, military, and civilian – to more effectively integrate their efforts and take measures provided for under the act and applicable laws to prevent and mitigate, as much as possible, undue disruption or impact on the safety of the general public.

The law does not prohibit nor obstruct peaceful demonstrations held within the bounds of the law. The Royal Thai government respects people’s constitutional right to peaceful assembly, while the security measures to be put in place would help ensure security and peaceful and orderly assembly of the demonstrators. Clear instructions have been given to all security agencies that officers exercise the utmost restraint, and should the situation escalate, that they take a graduated response – from light to heavy measures – in accordance with internationally-accepted practices, with due respect to human rights principles.

For tourists visiting the kingdom, it should be stressed that foreigners have not been targeted in the on-going political conflict. However, foreigners are advised to be vigilant and avoid areas where crowds may gather.

Other than the areas under the ISA, travel to all other parts of the kingdom has not been affected. Tourism activities in all other areas continue as normal.

The TAT Hotline and Call Center – 1672 – provides 24-hour service. TAT recommends that foreign tourists and visitors to Thailand call 1672 for tourist assistance. In the event that further coordination or facilitation is needed, they will be directed to the nearest TAT Tourist Information Centre.

Thai Tourism Industry representatives are on stand-by to provide round-the-clock assistance to foreign tourists and visitors.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand Tourism Intelligence Unit and Crisis Communication Centre (TIC) serves as an operations center for state and private sector consultative meetings and joint-planning sessions and enables TAT and representatives from the Thai tourism industry to plan and execute rapid and orchestrated responses. From March 11 onwards, TIC will be staffed 24 hours a day. Representatives from Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports, the Tourist Police, the Thai Hotels Association (THA), the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA), and the General Insurance Association will also be on duty at the center.

HOTLINES & CALL CENTER NUMBERS

TAT Call Center – 1672
Tourist Police – 1155
Ministry of Tourism and Sports – 1414
General Insurance Association – 1356
Thai Airways International (THAI) – +66 (0) 2356-1111

AREAS TO BE AVOIDED

The following roads in Bangkok near the designated rally site at Ratchadamnoen Avenue is closed to traffic, and visitors and tourists are advised to avoid the following areas:

- Ratchadamnoen Nok
– Ratchadamnoen Klang
– Dinsor Road
– Uthong Nai Road
– Sri Ayutthaya Road
– Na Phra That Road
– Tanao Road
– Phra Sumen Road

For the latest updates, please visit here.

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Thailand donates 100 tons of rice to Haiti relief effort

The Thai Government and Thai Airways International Public Company Limited (THAI), as well as the private sector, cooperated together in transporting 100 tons of Thai rice on a THAI freighter aircraft to Haiti. The humanitarian donation of Thai rice will benefit the people of Haiti who have been affected by severe earthquake. Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva, Prime Minister of Thailand, presided over the donation ceremony witnessed by representatives from the government and various organization in the ramp area of THAI Air Cargo, Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Mr. Piyasvasti Amranand, THAI President, said that transporting 100 tons of Thai jasmine rice from the government of Thailand to the Republic of Haiti was possible due to cooperation from the government and various organizations, in order to provide assistance as quickly as possible. THAI Limited provided relief aid by conducting a humanitarian freighter flight to transport the rice to the Republic of Haiti, at a flight time of 36 hours on the route. A transport by ship would take approximately 5 to 6 weeks to travel from Bangkok to Haiti, and it was decided through the initiative of the Thai government, THAI, and various organizations, to expedite the humanitarian relief. In particular, the donation of Thai rice reflects on Thailand’s national identity as a country that is known as a “world kitchen” and one the world’s largest sources of rice production.

The aircraft utilized in transporting the rice from Thailand to Haiti is a THAI cargo freighter Boeing 747-300F. The freighter flight departed from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport on Monday, February 1, 2010 at 1400 hours, with refueling at Incheon Airport in Korea; Anchorage, Alaska; and Miami, Florida in the United States of America, and arrival at Port au Prince Airport in the Republic of Haiti on Tuesday, February 2, 2010 at 0800 hours (local time).

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International Tourism on Track for a Rebound

Angel Falls, Venezuela

Growth returned to international tourism in the last quarter of 2009 contributing to better than expected full-year results, according tothe latest edition of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. International tourist arrivals fell by an estimated 4% in 2009. Prospects have also improved with arrivals now forecast to grow between 3% and 4% in 2010. This outlook is confirmed by the remarkable rise of the UNWTO Panel of Experts’ Confidence Index.

2009 – Last quarter sees return to growth

International tourist arrivals for business, leisure and other purposes are estimated to have declined worldwide by 4% in 2009 to 880 million. This represents a slight improvement on the previous estimate as a result of the 2% upswing in the last quarter of 2009. Asia and the Pacific and the Middle East led the recovery with growth already turning positive in both regions in the second half of 2009.

“The global economic crisis aggravated by the uncertainty around the A(H1N1) pandemic turned 2009 into one of the toughest years for the tourism sector”, said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. “However, the results of recent months suggest that recovery is underway, and even somewhat earlier and at a stronger pace than initially expected”, he added.

Consumers tended to travel closer to home during 2009. Several destinations have seen domestic tourism endure the crisis better and even grow significantly, often with the support of specific government measures aimed at leveraging this trend. This was the case among countries, such as China, Brazil and Spain, where the domestic market, representing a large share of the total demand, contributed to partially offsetting the decline in international tourism.

Zebra in the Serengeti/Wildebeest Migration

Regional panorama

Except for Africa, which bucked the global trend, all world regions show negative results in 2009:
• Europe ended 2009 down 6% after a very complicated first half (-10%). Destinations in Central, Eastern and Northern Europe were particularly badly hit, while results in Western, Southern and Mediterranean Europe were relatively better.
• Asia and the Pacific (-2%) showed an extraordinary rebound. While arrivals declined by 7% between January and June, the second half of 2009 saw 3% growth reflecting improved regional economic results and prospects.
• In the Americas (-5%), the Caribbean returned to growth in the last four months of 2009. The performance was more sluggish in the other sub-regions, with the A(H1N1) influenza outbreak exacerbating the impact of the economic crisis.
• The Middle East (-6%), though still far from the growth levels of previous years, had a positive second half in 2009.
• Africa (+5%) was a robust performer, with sub-Saharan destinations doing particularly well.

2010 – Improved prospects in a ‘year of transformation’

UNTWO forecasts a growth in international tourist arrivals of between 3% and 4% in 2010. Asia is expected to continue showing the strongest rebound, while Europe and the Americas are likely to recover at a more moderate pace. Growth is expected to return to the Middle East while Africa will continue its positive trend benefiting from the extra boost provided by the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

The world travel organization sees 2010 as a ‘year of transformation’, citing the following opportunities, and downside risks.

Upside opportunities:

• Business and consumer confidence has picked up;
• Interest rates and inflation remain at historically low levels and are expected to rise only moderately in the short term;
• A slump is generally followed by a rebound due to pent-up demand and destinations are expected to actively leverage this opportunity;
• There is scope for a revival among source markets which were hard hit in 2009 such as the Russian Federation or the UK;
• Major international events will take place in South Africa (FIFA World Cup), Canada (Winter Olympics) and China (Shanghai Expo), creating potential extra travel demand;
• The momentum of the spirit of cooperation and partnership bred by the crisis is expected to be maintained by stakeholders;
• The flexibility shown by the tourism sector in dealing with rapid shifts in demand and volatile market conditions has made it stronger;
• Crises provide an opportunity to address underlying structural weaknesses and implement strategies fostering sustainable development and the transformation to the Green Economy.

Moat surround Chiang Mai, Thailand

Downside risks:

• Unemployment is the key challenge. The jobs crisis is not over yet, particularly in major advanced economies and many valuable human resources are still at risk;
• Economic growth in major source markets, specially in Europe and the USA, is still fragile;
• Stimulus measures are likely to be phased out due to increasing public deficits while a number of advanced economies may see increases in taxation, putting extra pressure on household and company budgets;
• Oil prices remain volatile;
• Although the overall impact of the influenza A(H1N1) virus was milder until now than anticipated, experience from previous pandemics shows that the situation could once again become challenging;
• Security threats and the potential of increased related hassle and costs for travellers are still a challenge;
• Revenues and yields are expected to recover at a slower pace than travel volumes.

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Suraphon Svetasreni appointed new governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand

A veteran of the travel and tourism industry, Mr. Suraphon Svetasreni, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) deputy governor for marketing communications, has been appointed the new governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, effective January 1, 2010. Mr. Svetasreni is the eighth governor since the founding of Thailands’s national tourism organization in 1960.

Mr. Svetasreni joined TAT in September 1977. In his 32 years with the organization, he contributed to the success of the kingdom’s notable global destination marketing campaigns, led the charge on strategic and tactical marketing and public relations campaigns, and has been involved in tourism product development. He has also personally championed crisis management efforts for the Thai tourism industry. In undertaking all of these roles, Mr. Svetasreni endeavored to meet the needs and expectations of the Thai tourism industry with dedication, professionalism, and finesse.

Over 20 years of experience in marketing communications, advertising, and public relations, both in Thailand and overseas, have proved a tremendous asset in Mr. Svetasreni’s role in spearheading Thailand’s crisis communications and confidence-building tourism recovery efforts.

His involvement in crisis communications began in 1991 when TAT launched “The World — Our Guest,” Thailand’s first ever tourism recovery program following the coup d’etat in February that year. Recognizing the impact that various types of crisis can have on Thai tourism and the need to manage these risks, Mr. Svetasreni established the TAT Crisis Communication Centre in 2001 to facilitate communication, coordination, and networking between internal departments within TAT, as well as with private sector trade partners in the various tourism sub-sectors.

Under Mr. Svetasreni’s leadership, the TAT team has undertaken crisis communications and tourism recovery efforts on behalf of the Thai tourism industry during the following crises: 9/11 in 2001, SARS in 2003, Avian Influenza in 2004, the Indian Ocean-Andaman tsunami in 2004, and the military coup in 2006.

In addition to his role as TAT deputy governor for policy and planning, Mr. Svetasreni was appointed head of TAT’s Tourism Intelligence Unit and Crisis Communication Centre (TIC) in March 2007. This played a vital crisis communications role during the airport closures in late 2008, the political unrest in April 2009 and the Influenza A (H1N1) global epidemic.

In formulating a new strategic direction and strategies for promoting Thai tourism in an environment where constant change and uncertainty are the norm, Mr. Svetasreni has identified four key trends that are changing the marketing landscape, as well as the economics of travel and tourism, worldwide. These are:

- The digital phenomenon characterized by the exponential growth in new media, which have revolutionized the way in which individual consumers are being engaged, how they interact with each other through social networking, plan travel, make purchases, and generally shape myriad lifestyle activities online 24/7.

- The quest for sustainable tourism has brought increasingly urgent and persistent calls for tourism operators to assume far greater responsibility in ensuring the highest possible degree of environmental protection.

- The drive for marketing innovation through value creation especially in tandem with the nurturing of a “creative economy.” In the face of intensifying competition, this is seen to be the new and vital competitive edge in Thailand’s international marketing efforts.

- The economic emergence of Brazil, Russia, India, and China — the BRIC countries — which together represent the developing world’s fastest-growing economies.

- The trend towards a decentralization of tourism resource management and utilization broadens the base of tourism stakeholders.

These phenomena have brought about fundamental shifts in social values, as well as consumer preferences affecting key purchase decisions.

In his new role as TAT governor, Mr. Svetasreni takes on the responsibility of leading TAT and the Thai tourism industry through an era of dynamic change. In his vision statement, Mr. Svetasreni mapped out the following mission, which takes into account the designated organizational roles and responsibilities for the national tourism organization as outlined in the 2008–2011 State Enterprise Plan.

- To take TAT’s marketing excellence to a new level by strengthening organizational capabilities and boosting readiness to respond to the diverse challenges presented by an ever-changing operating environment.

- For TAT to assume a leadership role in tourism — one of the two key drivers of Thailand’s economic growth – and coordinate efforts between state agencies, commercial organizations, and community organizations for mutual public-private sector benefit.

To achieve the above, the new TAT agenda will focus on the following priorities — placing greater emphasis on digital marketing, strengthening the Thailand brand image, promoting sustainable tourism, and ensuring effectiveness in crisis management response.

IMPLEMENTATION

To achieve the vision, mission, and objectives as outlined, the new TAT governor mapped out two strategic fronts that are to be given equal priority — tourism marketing and organizational management.

On the tourism marketing front, the new TAT governor reiterates that both TAT and the Thai tourism industry overall need to embrace the increased use of new media to be able to reach online audiences and connect with them more effectively. Increased use of information technology (IT) to achieve marketing objectives and goals and more extensive use of new media and digital marketing in conjunction with emotional marketing will be the new platforms driving marketing innovation in the Thai tourism industry.

New age marketing also calls for more accurate market segmentation and precision marketing — the ability to reach relevant target market segments and individual customers and engage them by communicating clear messages. Through this process of crystalization, the Thailand brand, its products, and destinations should be made much clearer to both enterprises (tourism operators and service providers) on the one hand and individual tourists on the other. This process of engagement must also be transparent with all relevant tourism stakeholders able to access and view each other’s complete information.

The new TAT governor noted that while there is excellent awareness of the existing Amazing Thailand brand within the target market segments, in order to maintain and increase market share in today’s highly-competitive market environment, TAT may need to resort to “emotional” marketing strategies to offset factors and variables that cannot be influenced or controlled. Mr. Svetasreni believes that by engaging individual consumers on an emotional level, the customer’s relationship with Thailand is strengthened, thereby reinforcing it in their mind as a top destination choice.

With plans to ramp up the national tourism organization’s online presence to more effectively promote Destination Thailand in the digital arena, online marketing will now represent 30 percent of TAT’s total marketing mix. TAT will continue to invest in the development of TAT’s main tourism portal web site — http://www.TourismThailand.org – to leverage the full marketing potential that Web 2.0 and Social Networking offers and take TourismThailand.org to the next generation — Web 3.0, the IT platform that promises to deliver even more powerful benefits to the online consumer.

ORGANIZATIONAL MANAGEMENT

Mr. Svetasreni firmly believes that effective organizational management is key to TAT fulfilling its leadership role in the Thai tourism industry. Mr. Svetasreni pledged to boost internal organizational efficiency by making TAT a true learning organization in which TAT staff are presented with opportunities to undergo core competency training to further sharpen their marketing skills and individual capabilities.

The development of an integrated marketing database within TAT is also seen to be another vital asset and value-added service that TAT will be able to provide to stakeholders in the Thai tourism industry. Beyond facilitating internal decision-making processes within TAT and supporting risk management and crisis management needs, the information base will enable TAT to provide timely and reliable marketing intelligence to facilitate decision-making and planning.

Mr. Svetasreni recognizes that in assuming the leadership role in the tourism industry, stakeholders will inevitably have elevated expectations of TAT. Efficient internal coordination and improved staff productivity will be essential to making the critical difference to TAT’s and Thailand’s success.
In working towards the set goals, his immediate personal priorities at TAT will be to promote a better understanding among TAT staff about the organization’s role and responsibilities for the next decade and to ensure that staff at all levels have a clear understanding of the vision, goals, and processes involved. This in turn will contribute positively to the performance tracking and evaluation procedures being implemented.

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International Public Relations Division Tourism Authority of Thailand Tel: +66 (0) 2250 5500 ext. 4545-48 Fax: +66 (0) 2253 7419 Email: prdiv3@tat.or.th — For TAT news, click here.

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