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– SAMUI AIRSTRIP: The Tourism Council of Thailand has urged the government to construct a state-owned airport on Samui. Thanongsak Somwong, a member of the council’s committee on the Gulf of Thailand and President of Koh Samui Tourism Promotion Association, called on the government to develop a state-owned airport. The island currently has a private airport that has drawn complaints of a monopoly.
– TABLET WARS: Microsoft has pulled out all the stops to convince the world that Surface is the small tablet to beat, with a no-expenses-spared New York event last week. Apple, a notoriously secretive company, prefers a bafflingly minimal PR strategy for the iPad Mini that will launch tomorrow that would utterly fail for any other organization.
– TRAVEL STRESS: Lost luggage and no Internet are the highest factors causing stress among business travelers, according to a new study.
Research conducted by Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) on MICE travelers found that the majority cited lost luggage and poor Internet connections as key issues likely to stress them out while traveling, followed by flying economy on a long-haul flight.
Flight delays also topped the list while language barriers caused greater stress for North American business travelers than those from other parts of the world.
– ELTON IN BKK: Music icon, singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer, Elton John, returns to Thailand this winter to celebrate 40 years since his top hit Rocket Man was launched. Elton John will grace the stage at Impact Arena, Muang Thong Thani, with his one-night-only gig, “Singha Corporation Presents Elton John and His Band Live in Bangkok 2012 – 40th Anniversary of the Rocket Man,” on December 13, 2012.
– VEGETARIAN: Every year, the people of Thailand celebrate a vegetarian festival. This Thailand festival is an annual celebration that occurs during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar. The ninth lunar month can occur during the months of September or October in any given year. Many Thai people observe this vegetarian festival, even if they do not eat Thai vegetarian food throughout the rest of the year. The festival is popular throughout Thailand, and especially in areas with large populations of Chinese immigrants, such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket.
One unique aspect of the vegetarian festival, often seen in Phuket, is the actions of the mah song. A mah song is a man (or very rarely, a woman) possessed by a god during the vegetarian festival. Mah songs parade through the streets, walking across hot coals or exploding fireworks and bathing in hot oil. They pierce their mouths, cheeks, ears, and arms with fish hooks, knives, razor blades, and bamboo poles. The deity residing within the mah song protects their body from pain and injury. This is confirmed to onlookers by the fact that that very little blood or scarring occurs.
Religious devotees slash themselves with swords, pierce their cheeks with sharp objects and commit other painful acts to purify themselves.
– MYANMAR: It has the beaches and temples and culture to easily rival those of popular tourist destinations Thailand and Malaysia.
At night, the politically and culturally iconic Schwedagon Pagoda glimmers 325 feet high over a darkened Yangon. The ancient city of Bagan boasts a spectacular plain of more than 2,000 temples – some more than a millennium old – a short drive from Mandalay city is the old capital of Amarapura home to the U Bein Bridge, the world’s longest teak bridge and site of hazy lakeside sunsets.
International tourists to the country will tell you that Myanmar (Burma) has some breathtakingly beautiful places to visit. But here’s the problem: tourists are hard to come by.
Earlier this week, local media reported that in the first 9 months of the year, 357,159 tourists entered Myanmar. It will take another year or 2 for Myanmar to top the 1 million tourists per year mark, says U Naung Naung Han, the General Secretary of the Union of Myanmar Travel Association.
Although Myanmar’s tourist numbers are still low, investor visits are on the rise, highlighting poor infrastructure and raising the question of whether Myanmar is actually ready for an influx of visitors.
Already-scarce hotel rooms costing US$200 are being booked up by business delegations and almost-daily investment conferences taking up what is widely-touted as one of the world’s last oil and gas “frontier markets.”
– ASIA CRUISE: Singapore’s Minister for trade and industry, said the government had invested 500 million Singapore dollars (Bt12.5 billion) in Marina Bay Cruise Centre, expected to open officially soon.
Under this project, Singapore aims to see more cruise-ship travelers, who are considered big spenders. The government expects to see their numbers hit 1.5 million in 3 to 5 years from almost a million last year.
– MONDAY FOOD: Thai vegetarian restaurants identify themselves with yellow flags, yellow signs, and a Chinese symbol for vegetarianism. Most restaurants in Thailand can prepare Thai vegetarian food if requested by replacing meat with soy protein such as tofu and eliminating the fish sauce and oyster sauce. Other savory ingredients commonly found in Thai vegetarian cooking include soy sauce, soy bean paste, chili and chili powder, lemon grass, coconut milk, galangal root, ginger, coriander, kaffir lime leaves, and sweet Thai basil.
– AFFORDABLE LUXURY: Horst Schulze, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Capella Hotels Group, a leading global luxury-hotel operator, speaking at ITB Asia, Singapore said that in the next couple of years there would be a huge influx of tourists in the region from emerging countries. This could create more sophisticated demand, particularly for luxury experiences, because middle-class tourists are expected to be the mainstream of tourism in the near future.
Schulze, a former president of the Ritz Carton luxury-hotel chain, said: “Now luxury service needs to be redefined from traditional luxury into two markets – ultra-luxury and affordable luxury.”
He suggested that service was now the key point to retain existing customers, not merely good hardware or ambience.
Ultra-luxury should offer exclusivity and individualized services, while affordable luxury would cater to younger customers.
Normally, upscale customers account for 10 percent of tourism spending. But with the increased number of middle-class people in Asia, travel operators who want to lure sophisticated customers should understand what affordable luxury is, he said.