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PM confirms major cabinet shakeup, 14 new faces including ex-Thai Rak Thai. Business: Net experts urge government to oppose new UN Internet plan.
56 dead in Myanmar Muslim-Buddhist clashes. Pakistan arrests 9 in Malala shooting, mastermind still free. Obama votes early in tight election race.
– JAPAN/CHINA CONFLICT GOOD FOR THAI TOURISM: Japanese tourism in China took a sharp fall in September with the decline likely to persist as relations between the two countries remain strained, the Japan Association of Travel Agents said.
The association on October 24 said the number of Japanese tourists who joined package tours to China declined 44.5 percent in September compared with a year earlier. The findings are based on figures provided by 7 leading travel agencies, including JTB Corp. and Kinki Nippon Tourist Co.
The recent flare-up in the territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands, in the East China Sea, has been taking a toll on Japanese tourism in China, the association said, and the fallout looks likely to continue in coming months.
The figures showed Japanese group tour bookings to China in October down 72.5 percent on LY, November bookings down 75.8 percent, and December bookings down 71.5 percent.
Group tours to Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Macao are seeing a similar decline, and the association also found that fewer Japanese are traveling to South Korea, possibly due to the recent diplomatic standoff between the two nations over the Takeshima islets, in the Sea of Japan.
According to the association, there were 16.1 percent fewer Japanese visitors to South Korea on package tours in September compared with last year.
Reservations for October fell by nearly 50 percent, and they fell by more than 60 percent for November and December.
Instead, other destinations such as the United States, Canada, Guam, Saipan, and Thailand are seeing a significant increase in the number of vacationers booking travel packages in December, according to the association.
The number of package tours booked to the United States or Canada doubled, while those for Guam or Saipan increased by about 3.5 times.
There were 1.8 times more Japanese reserving group tours to Thailand year on year.
– SEX WORKERS: New Zealand and Australia’s New South Wales province are models of how decriminalization of prostitution boosted condom use and slowed the spread of HIV, resulting in “extremely low or nonexistent” transmission of sexual diseases among prostitutes, said a recent UN report.
Thailand is also a relatively safe place to be a prostitute. Although prostitution is illegal, authorities usually ignore the sex trade, enabling many up-market Thai sex workers to enjoy higher wages, cleaner environments, and less hassle compared with elsewhere in Asia, said Chantawipa Apisuk, who directs Empower, a Thai foundation led by prostitutes.
“In Thailand, although it’s illegal, it’s still open, and a lot of people, my friends, are working,” she added.
Sex workers should enjoy the same labor conditions as factory workers or entertainers, said Ms. Chantawipa, who wore a T-shirt emblazoned with her favorite slogan: “Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go everywhere.”
– EXPENSIVE BRAZILIAN: A Brazilian student is set to sell her virginity for a staggering US$780,000 after she put it up for auction online. A man called Natsu, from Japan, fended off strong competition from American bidders Jack Miller and Jack Right, and Indian big-spender Rudra Chatterjee, to secure a date with 20-year-old Catarina Migliorini.
– LANGUAGE TRAINING: Ministry of Labor’s Department of Skill Development said additional foreign language training centers will be set up for Thai students and workers to prepare them for the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.
The ministry permanent secretary, Somkiart Chayasriwong, said the DSD is cooperating with educational institutes under the Ministry of Education to set up 27 language training centers at skill development institutes and centers nationwide.
“The Department Acting General Director, Nakorn Silpa-archa, was assigned to set up additional language centers to cover every province this year,” he said.
The existing centers provide courses for several languages including English, Chinese, Korean, and Burmese.
About 2,500 people attended language courses from July to September.
In addition, the Tourist Police responsible for tourist safety have been told to upgrade their language skills. In recent years, they have relied heavily on volunteers, mainly foreigners, who assist officers to communicate with tourists who require assistance.
– CABINET RESHUFFLE: If the names mentioned in speculation ahead of the Cabinet reshuffle are an indication, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra seems to have had a considerable say in the make-up of her new Cabinet.
Among new faces in the Yingluck 3 Cabinet will be core members of the now defunct Thai Rak Thai Party – members of the so-called House Address 111 – who have just completed their 5-year ban from politics.
They include Pongsak Raktapongpaisal, who is set to become the energy minister in place of Arak Chonlatanon, an outsider in the Yingluck 2 Cabinet under the Pheu Thai quota.
Pongthep Thepkanchana, another former Thai Rak Thai executive, is set for the post of Deputy Prime Minister along with the position of Education Minister, replacing Suchart Tadathamrongvej, who has had conflicts with Pheu Thai MPs.
The rest of the reshuffled posts are widely seen as changes for the sake of political harmony. For example, Transport Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan, who is tipped to be next Pheu Thai leader, is expected to become the Interior Minister, replacing former Pheu Thai leader Yongyuth Wichaidit.
The much-speculated list contains no changes to key economic ministries. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong will almost certainly keep his positions despite rumors that former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been disappointed with his performance. It is said that Thaksin ordered his sister to remove Kittiratt, who is very close to Yingluck, from the Cabinet, or at least take away one of his posts.
Yingluck, however, refused to comply. This seems to indicate that Yingluck has gained in confidence as a leader and is willing to defy her brother’s wishes and make decisions on her own.
Yingluck yesterday confirmed she had sent her new Cabinet list for Royal sanction and boasted that her brother had nothing to do with the reshuffle.
Boonsong Teriyapirom will likely retain his position as Commerce Minister. Boonsong’s continuing presence in the Cabinet would indicate that Yingluck is not worried that the rice-pledging scheme will become a critical weak point during the no-confidence showdown with the opposition. On the contrary, it would indicate that the government is ready to go ahead with the scheme.
More evidence that Yingluck now has a considerable say in big decisions is that Red-Shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan will be left out of the new Cabinet. It has been reported that Yingluck resisted an order from her brother to appoint Jatuporn to the Cabinet for fear that his presence would affect the government’s image. Yingluck decided to defy Red-Shirt opinion and exclude Jatuporn. The news was confirmed by Jatuporn on Wednesday night, during an appearance on his TV show.
– THAI: Thai Airways International, the national carrier, is working against time to strengthen its financial performance over the rest of the year by focusing more on existing money-spinning destinations in Asia, as it battles to recover from last year’s loss of Bt10.2 billion.
This effort includes maximizing the key markets of South Korea, China, and Japan via a core strategy of increasing the number of flights and capacity.
THAI will also introduce new destinations, in cooperation with THAI Smile, the airline’s sub-brand, while more pricing flexibility from season to season will be in focus with a view to increasing yields and filling capacity.
Pandit Chanapai, THAI’s Executive Vice President Commercial, yesterday said key Asian markets offered great potential to provide healthy sales at a time when the European market is stagnant due the euro zone’s financial troubles.
Furthermore, the outlook for next year is clear, in that Asia will outgrow Europe, he said. Most importantly, flying in Asia can save on operating costs, especially for fuel, which makes up 40 percent of the total.
At present, the intercontinental market accounts for 54 percent of THAI’s seating, followed by 41-42 percent from the regional market and the rest from domestic operations. However, the regional market contributes more than 50 percent of the carrier’s overall sales, said the executive.
The Bangkok-Sapporo route is a good example of the company’s plan. On Wednesday, THAI announced its first flight to the Japanese destination, which will take place on October 30.
Using an Airbus A330-300, there will initially be 3 flights per week. The number of flights will increase to four per week from December 30.
THAI will be the first non-Japanese airline to fly directly to Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido, and the development is expected to bolster trade and tourism between Japan and Thailand. The carrier claims to have 95 percent advanced booking on the new route.
THAI also has 21 weekly flights from Bangkok to Narita, 17 to Osaka, 10 to Nagoya, and 7 each to Haneda and Fukuoka.
The company’s total number of weekly flights to Japan, including Bangkok-Sapporo, will be 65. This is expected to increase to 70 by the middle of next year after the launch of another new destination.
THAI President Sorajak Kasemsuwan said that if demand rose further, the carrier would increase the number of flights to Japan and also use bigger aircraft.
It is also looking for new destinations such as Hiroshima, Sendai, and Nagasaki to add to its network, he said.
“It is time to find ways to strengthen our financial performance before the year ends. This has been my first priority since taking office almost 20 days ago,” he added.
The airline’s average passenger-load factor for the year to date is slightly over 70 percent, but this is expected to rise to 75 percent for the whole year, said Sorajak.
– SKAL AT WTM: There will not be the usual lunch as it was found to be increasingly difficult for Skal members to get away from their stand, instead there will be a cocktail networking opportunity from 5:30 to 8:30 pm on Monday, November 5 at the Aloft hotel next to Excel the venue once again for World Travel Market 2012, London.
Avoid the queues for the tube and relax and/or network with other Skalleagues from around the world; to book: http://www.skallondon.co.uk .
– UK: RUDE MOVIES AND STEALING THE TOILETRIES: From the mini designer toiletries to the array of TV channels, UK guests staying in hotels are quick to lap up the luxuries on offer.
Male hotel guests watch adult TV channels as soon as they arrive in their room while women check out the shampoo and conditioner on offer, according to new research.
And while 19 percent of men are quick to flick on porn shows, the nation’s females weren’t totally squeaky clean, with 15 percent also admitting they like to find out what adult TV channels are on offer.
Unsurprisingly, only ten percent of men admitted they found the toiletries interesting.
– BOUTIQUE LUXURY: Boutique and lifestyle hotels don’t have to be luxurious to be a part of a jet setters fashionable life; they simply need to provide a unique environment in a comfortable setting that appeals to multiple layers of consumers.
Boutique and lifestyle hotels are all about an experience, with some design quirkiness that speaks to guests.
There’s a paradigm shift with younger consumers who prefer a comfortable, unique environment rather than going to an uber-cool upscale hotel that’s short on providing a welcoming atmosphere.
“It’s safe to say it’s no longer about stars and diamonds, but unique and fun,” observers said.
Staff at mid-priced lifestyle hotels can have tattoos, facial hair, and other forms of individual expression, as long as they are well trained in their job functions. The success of Whole Foods in the supermarket sector provides a good lesson to hoteliers in the mid-price boutique hotel business.
– THAI SAFETY ZONES FOR TOURISTS: More help for tourists is on the way as police prepare to roll out measures, including the creation of “safety zones,” to mark the advent of the Asean Economic Community in 2015.
Increased confidence will mean more travelers will come to Thailand which will help the government reach its target of boosting tourist revenue to 2 trillion baht.
After studying crime-prone locations nationwide with the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, police created a list of “safety zone” areas under the jurisdictions of 353 police stations in 56 provinces.
Police will scrupulously protect tourists and work on wiping out crimes in these safety zones, said Pol. Gen. Wuthi.
In Bangkok, safety zones will include Khao San Road, Royal City Avenue, Ratchadaphisek Road, and Patpong Road.
In other provinces, tourist hotspots Samui, Pattaya and Hat Yai are expected to be named safety zones.
– KOH SAMUI: Following the Thai government’s cabinet meeting on Koh Samui, this week the government is now promoting tourist spots in the country’s central and southern regions and along the shores of the Gulf of Thailand to further invigorate its already flourishing tourism industry.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra left for Koh Samui island and nearby coastal areas on the weekend, beginning with Saturday’s flight from Bangkok to the world- renowned island resort. After landing at Koh Samui International Airport, the Prime Minister took a boat to the islands of Koh Phan gan and Koh Tao.
On Sunday, she visited Nakhon Si Thammarat, the mainland province just across the sea from Koh Samui. She will then return to Koh Samui where she will preside over a “roving” Cabinet meeting on Monday.
Yingluck earlier visited Krabi and Puket, both world-renowned tourist destinations on the shores of the Andaman Sea, where she had already approved plans to further develop and improve the area. In Nakhon Si Thammarat, Yingluck and her Cabinet visited Wat Pra Mahathat Wora Mahaviharn temple as the government intends to promote it as a World Heritage site.
In Surat Thani, the Prime Minister has been briefed on a project to build an international airport at Don Sak, where tourists usually ride on ferry boats to and from Koh Samui.
– ESPRESSO ELEPHANT: The Black Ivory blend, made from coffee beans digested and excreted by Thai elephants, is billed as producing a particularly smooth cup. But it is not cheap, with Anantara Hotels said the ”naturally refined” coffee costs US$1100 per kilogram – making it one of the most expensive blends in the world.
– FUTSAL: Thailand was beaten 7-5 by Panama in their final game of the All Stars Futsal Festival.