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If you find yourself in Bangkok from now until the end of December, you should take some time and visit Australian designer Patrick Keane’s Project Rattan exhibition at River City.

Project Rattan is an exhibition of furniture design featuring Thai craftsmanship and aimed at restoring local artisans to create international level products.

The exhibit is open daily on the 3rd floor.

River City is also such a cool venue for emerging art exhibitions that of late included Andy Warhol through 24th November and famed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei at the Tang Contemporary gallery.

For more details about River City and Project Rattan go to following link.

Thailand’s Cabinet has agreed in principal for up to 1,200 overseas visitors per month can be granted access under a Special Tourist Visa (STV) program.

Under a ninety day term,  extensions will be allowed for an total visit of nine months (270 days).

Entry will still be subject to 14 day Alternative Local State Quarantine (ALSQ).

The visa program is to be started next month and will cost THB2,000 per 90-day term.

Those initially targeted will be long-term residents, those with family members or people intentioned to undergo healthcare in the country.

Ministerial guidelines are expected shortly.

It’s a rainy day in Phuket and the headlines in the Bangkok Post continue the gray mood for tourism.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor Yuthasak Supasorn is quoted in, saying that the Phuket model for restarting international travel is likely to be delayed. Mind you he did not give a definite no.

Triggering the issue was the first local Covid-19 case in Bangkok last week in more than three months and the reality of an ongoing “fear factor” over the pandemic continues to make the travel start controversial.

For island hoteliers amid a desperate cash flow situation and stuck in budget season, a forward look into 2021 still is extremely unclear. Or even for the remainder of 2020.

Last week the Phuket Hotels Association held an open one-hour Flash Market Overview and Forecast for hotel and tourism with contributors being the Thai Hotels Association (THA), STR, C9 Hotelworks, and Horwath HTL.

A run through on up to date data was part of the program and the in-depth analysis can be seen on YouTube that has all the presentations.

For Phuket hotels looking for green shoots, the only real current market is domestic, and hope that the ALSQ (alternative local state quarantine program) will be implemented on the island soon, but that requires an approval for international flights.

The current challenge looks to be summed up as “the winter of our discontent” for the moment.

As part of a larger international expansion plan, Phuket’s Thanyapura Sports and Health Resort has appointed Edgar Toral Hernandez as Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

Outgoing President and CEO Philipp Graf von Hardenberg is relocating to Singapore to open a new international office and will be leading expansion projects from there.

The Thanyapura footprint is pushing outward to Hefei China where the fitness-centric T-Hub brand project will debut at the end of this year.

While in the group’s first resort outside of Thailand, will debut in China in late 2022.

Thai Airways International has announced plans to commence non-scheduled charter flights  between Phuket and six international destinations in the latter part of  November.

The six are Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, UK, Germany and Denmark.

Two flights a month is the initial plan, with more if there is demand. The airline is also looking at Mainland China non-scheduled service.

TG is also working with Phuket hotels under the Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) program to accommodate overseas visitors.

For Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus members, mileage redemption is allowed.

Making national news in Thailand is the Phuket island light rail project which is now slated to start service in 2026.

Under the MRTA (Thailand’s Mass Rapid Transit Authority) and Phuket province the first phase will be connecting Phuket International Airport to the island’s North and South main artery Thepkasattri Road.

It will run from there all the way to the center of Phuket City and onto Chao Fah Road East to Chalong.

According to the Nation newspaper, Cabinet approval will be sought next year and bid’s tendered in 2022 with a four-year construction term.

Beat bard poet Willie Shakespeare once penned the line “now is the winter of our discontent”, but for Thailand all you need to do is cut and paste summer into winter which then segues on to explain the current state of the national angst.

In 2020 Thai’s have not only lost their Songkran, but for the boys and girls of summer, manifested as a rising tide of outbound global travelers, they have been denied title roles in the wide world of Instagram gratification. No chic pics of France, Switzerland, Japan or Australia. Nada, sorry the door to the outside has been closed.

Fear. That’s it. Or more accurately FOMO (fear of missing out) has become a domestic plague of epic proportion. And here is what is interesting for the hotel and travel industry in Thailand is that Thai’s are once again learning to fall in love with their own country. Of course, in this case, the ‘love factor’ has been supercharged by the IG -Instagram mission of post til you drop.

Here in Phuket, speaking to OTA’s one of the most important learnings is the behavior changes of travelers in a Covid-19 world and how preferences are shifting. According to one of the larger booking providers, the top three locations searched for accommodation are Patong, Phuket Town and Koh Yao Yai. Certainly, no surprise with Patong, but the inclusion of the latter two clearly points to the relevance of domestic demand.

Start trolling Instagram or Facebook and look at images of these locations and you find food, panoramic bucket list photo opportunities and photogenic design hotels. Talking to hotels in picture perfect Phang Nga Bay, occupancy is relatively strong, though in no uncertain circumstance is the customer base the same. The disruption is here, and it might be just rolling in on a Rimowa, and weighed down by costume changes and digital accessories including tripods, mini drones and multiple devices.

For hotels in Phuket, the new norm is that summer will soon enough turn to winter. Reality is biting hard, but for now, THE MARKET is now, and for the foreseeable future, domestic travelers. Sadly, the Bangkok crowd’s perception of Phuket remains somewhat negative, with the perception of a wildly expensive destination, unaccommodating service and transportation and ultimately many Thai’s express that they feel unwelcome in Phuket to the extent of nearly feeling they are a stranger in their own country.

What the island now has, is the opportunity to learn and start to change its attitude towards domestic visitors. Over the past few months the mounting noise in social media is rising about expats feeling unwelcome in Thailand, or irate about dual prices.  But, the very same can be said about how Phuket deals with local visitors. Seems everyone in Covid-19 is feeling unwelcome.

Trying to wrap this into a takeaway, I can probably say that despite a highly challenged hotel sector, is that some businesses are finding a way through the valley of the shadow of death (note Biblical reference to say it’s really bad out there). Adjusting customer bases, understanding Thai hotel guests on how and why they travel or what attracts them and at the end of the day, taking the opportunity to reinvent Thainess in Phuket is needed now and into the future. You may return to IG now.

In the early days of COVID-19, the common thinking was that international gateways would be the first to accept the return of overseas travelers.

Making news today in the Bangkok Post is a Phuket 4T initiative that could see limited direct charter flights by November or December of this year.

4T stands for target, tracing testing and treatment. Under the proposal long-stay travelers would be the early market, but given Phuket’s enormous ‘snow bird’ winter sector, this makes absolute sense to fish where the fish are.

Reportedly the proposal is under discussion with the provincial disease control committee, but the format is such that it targets one of the island’s strong demonstrated segments.

Travelers would be required to test and also undergo a limited restricted period at their hotels,  but the program is well-suited to gradually restore traveler confidence while mitigating risk in Phuket’s more spread out resort areas.

Stay tuned to see where this initiative moves to in the coming days.

A proposed new marina that can accommodate up to 220 boats is under public hearing process in Mai Khao Phuket.

According to the Bangkok Post, the developer is the Green Port Marina Company and an EIA (environmental impact assessment) is being undertaken.

The site which is 130-140 rai will host an ‘open water’ marina.

If approved, the project will reportedly start construction in early 2021.