Art shines In Her Eyes

July 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Don Ross, Events, Travel Logs

CHIANG RAI, 25 July 2017: An art exhibition by 26 female artists living in this far-north Thai province, underscores efforts to brand Chiang Rai as a “City of Art.”

The ‘In Her Eyes’ exhibition opened last Saturday at the town’s ArtBridge that has more than 300 members many of them artists in their own right and residents who support the arts. The exhibition runs until 20 August displaying more than 60 paintings.

Efforts to brand Chiang Rai based on its strong art community date back to 2015 when the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports funded an exercise to assist the province to discover a path to branding its tourism identity.

A series of seminars were held after the inaugural briefing and presentations at the town’s Legend Hotel. Nothing much came of the initiative until earlier this year, when it became apparent tourism officials had settled on the tag “City of Art”. Very little has been carried out since to present the branding to the province’s travel industry and the TAT office in Chiang Rai was conspicuous by its absence from the launch of the In Her Eyes exhibition. Read more

Exception to a rule

July 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Don Ross, Travel Logs

CHIANG RAI, 18 July 2017: I thought it was a pretty simple decision to make. I wouldn’t ride elephants. But that all changed when my grandson visited last month.

“Grandpa,” he said just minutes after he exited Chiang Rai’s airport terminal building after a six-hour flight from Singapore, “I want to ride an elephant”.

Grand fathers are not supposed to pontificate on what’s politically correct. They make things happen, perhaps beyond the peripheral vision of mum and dad. Anyway, he wasn’t going to take no for an answer.  That’s when I realised that there are always exceptions to the best of rules. Read more

Reputation rules the roost

July 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Don Ross, Travel Logs

BANGKOK, 13 July 2017: A country’s tourism rises and falls on its reputation and also on what research identifies as its emotional connection, or how international travellers relate to and perceive a destination.

Apparently Thailand has plenty in the positive emotional connection department, according to the 2017 Country RepTrax study, released last week, but it needs to work on its overall reputation index.

Reputation Institution established in 1997 has been tracking the reputation score of 55 top GDP countries worldwide for the last 12 years. Read more

Farewell to the Dusit Thani

July 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Don Ross, Travel Logs

BANGKOK, 4 July 2017: Whatever the PR spin, there is a sense of sadness knowing the iconic Dusit Thani Bangkok, will be torn down to make way for a new flagship hotel for its owning company Dusit International.

Just over 48 years after it opened to the public in February 1970, the hotel will close 16 April 2018 to allow demolition teams to move in.

I remember the opening party that attracted Bangkok socialites, business leader and the media. I worked at the Bangkok Post at the time, just a block away from the brand new hotel on Rama IV road. At the opening party I was introduced to the general manager who represented the US chain Westin, the only foreign chain ever to manage the hotel. They didn’t stay long enough to make a real impression. Read more

No bond between airlines and agents

June 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Don Ross, Travel Logs

BANGKOK, 29 June 2017: Are airlines quietly denying travel agencies the oxygen of a competitive fare? Or perhaps they smothering their business partner quietly with a fluffy pillow, praying the old codger would breathe his last and be gone?  Sadly it looks that way for the almost pensioned travel agent.

Long gone are the days when airlines depended on travel agencies for the bulk of their bookings. The very notion of keeping back a best-of-its-class fare was unheard of when travel agencies ruled the roost. Just the hint that a better deal could be sourced elsewhere would have brought the travel agency community down on the hapless airline like a ton of bricks.

I had almost forgot the love-hate relationship between airlines and travel agencies. I just assumed that if I sourced a great fare on an airline website that the airline would still be looking out for its faithful business partner, the traditional travel agency. The same fare would be available to a loyal agent. All I had to was ask. No such luck. Read more

Asian airlines dominate Skytrax’s top 10

June 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Don Ross, Travel Logs

BANGKOK, 27 June 2017: Asian airlines dominated Skytrax’s 2017 top 10 rankings of the World Airlines Awards taking six of the 10 leading slots.

Qatar Airways took the top award, but Singapore Airlines was a close second, while Japan’s ANA was third, Cathay Pacific fifth, Taiwan’s EVA sixth, China’s Hainan ninth and Indonesia’s Garuda 10th.

Middle East Airlines, Qatar (first) Emirates, fourth and Etihad, eighth, illustrated the brand strength of the three gateway carriers that now carry the lion’s share of the traffic between Southeast Asia and Europe. Read more

UNWTO’s Rifai got it wrong

June 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Don Ross, Travel Logs

BANGKOK, 23 June 2017: At about the same time as Otto Warmbier was shipped out of North Korea in a coma on a flight home to the US, UNWTO secretary general, Taleb Rifai, was preaching the good news that tourism could build international relations with North Korea.

Warmbier never regained consciousness. He died at home from serious brain damage caused by the brutal treatment meted out by guards at a North Korean prison where he was incarcerated for 17 months.

His crime? He pilfered a political poster from his hotel as a memento of his trip, just minutes before he left for the airport. He never made that flight and the last time he was seen in public was during a public televised viewing of his sentencing when he cried for mercy. Read more

Mekong Tourism: Is there a way forward?

June 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Don Ross, Travel Logs

LUANG PRABANG, 14 June 2017: “We shouldn’t repeat the mistakes of others, I am not happy with tourism development and be careful what you wish for,” were some of the cryptic comments of panelists at last week’s Mekong Tourism Forum.

Asked to talk about the way forward, 20 years after the first MTF convened in Thailand, a new generation appears to be ready to grapple with tough decisions and choices.

Their comments followed the official presentation of the GMS Tourism Strategy Draft Report 2016 to 2025 and a thought provoking keynote address by Conscience Travel Founder, Anna Pollock, who told the travel industry it isn’t an industry. Read more

ADB funds flow to the Mekong

June 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Don Ross, Mekong, Travel Logs

BANGKOK, 12 July 2017: Achieving balance in Mekong Region tourism was the underlying theme of keynote addresses and discussions at breakout sessions during the 20th Mekong Tourism Forum held last week in the World Heritage town of Luang Prabang in Laos.

But will the region’s tourism policy makers listen to the call for caution, balance and possibly a rethink of long-term goals?

The region known as the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) is heading for an astounding tourist head count of 66.9 million this year and based on the GMS Tourism Sector Strategy 2016 to 2025 the region is on track to welcome 95 million visitors by 2025. Read more

Lifetime vocation attending travel shows

June 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Don Ross, Travel Logs

BANGKOK, 5 June 2017: June is a reminder that Asia’s travel trade scene is packed with events that will change how you do business, talk fests that entertain and a smattering of the old fashioned travel shows that motor on despite disruptive technology.

This week, the Mekong Tourism Forum convenes in Luang Prabang, a World Heritage town and a premier destination driving tourism to Laos. It is six years since the forum was last held in Laos when it convened in Pakse.

Many of the faces have changed, but most of the core issues have not.  At the MTF 2011 in Pakse organisers rolled out the theme, “Destination Mekong: The Making of a Star,” while this year the focus is on “Prosper with Purpose”. Following each event the theme is deposited in a box appropriately named “been there done that”. Read more

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