Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Thai temptations

With its close proximity and amazing travel deals Thailand is a popular leisure spot for New Zealanders and now, with the amount of second, third and fourth-time visitors, clients are more savvy and often more willing to get outside of their comfort zone.
A large proportion of Kiwi travellers to Thailand are repeat visitors always on the lookout for new places, said Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) representative Marieanne Ouwehand.
“Clients are still wanting the beaches but they’re after less populated areas that don’t have the high rises, the hundreds of people, and the noise and nightclubs,” said Ouwehand.
Many agents fall back on the easy sell by simply sending clients on a package tour of the most popular islands but, said Ouwehand, it pays to look at other options. A newer boutique hotel on a less visited island might be more expensive but clients are often willing to pay for a more varied holiday.
“Many second-time visitors go to their travel agent who will give them a package including the main areas like Koh Samui and Phuket, but these clients are like little dogs – they will sink their teeth into it, shake it, look on the internet and go back to their agent saying they prefer something different to the big, discounted properties. And, if they get what they want, they will be prepared to pay for it.”
Many repeat travellers will avoid the beaches altogether and head up north where different tours are popping up for the discerning traveller.
“There is definitely a trend with repeat travellers booking more traditional style holidays in the north,” said Ouwehand. “For some people it’s more about seeing the hill tribes than needing the sun, sea and sand.”
New tours emerging are aimed at the more adventurous and discerning client including winery tours, biking holidays, temple tours and elephant camps.
Active Asia general manager Paul Safe said an increasing number of clients are seeking more traditional areas of Thailand.
“The beaches are still the most popular style holiday but for people who have been there before they usually head north,” said Safe. “I would recommend anyone going to Bangkok to at least do a day tour to Ayutthaya – an hour’s drive from Bangkok. There are some fantastic ruins and temples, then there are the lodges up north where you can visit the villages. There’s a lot to see and do.”
An unusual trend emerging around Bangkok right now is winery tours. With huge demand from tourists, wineries have started popping up around the city and in the north.
“Thailand has always been predominantly spirit-based where wine has never really featured on the drinks menu and people would usually buy duty free wine because, when you would find it, it was very expensive,” said Ouwehand. “That trend has changed recently. Thailand has cottoned on to the fact that people are quite dismayed at having to pay huge prices for wine.”
Active Asia has jumped onboard offering a two-day cycling winery tour.
“In our ex Bangkok itineraries now we offer a tour where clients can visit the wineries just north from Bangkok where they will cycle through the countryside and sample wines at the same time,” said Safe.
Resorts are also getting in on the action, many building their own wine cellars.
“It’s mainly the European-run hotels who are putting wine cellars in and catering for their clients needs as Europeans are usually the ones asking for it,” said Ouwehand. “One hotel, Centara Grand in Bangkok, has the most amazing wine cellar I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s three stories high and the wait staff have to abseil from the top to retrieve your wine. Thailand really is moving with the times.”
But for those who really want a true taste of Thailand, Active Asia has another newbie. Only recently released, Elephant Hills, ex Phuket or Krabi, is an elephant experience like no other.
“This is more of an elephant experience,” said Safe. “At Elephant Hills they rescue abandoned elephants and baby elephants left after poaching and take retired logging elephants. They even sometimes buy them, rescuing them from a life of misery.”
While clients won’t be able to ride the elephants, they will be able to bathe, feed and learn about the gentle giants.
Clients will stay in luxury tented accommodation with all the usual amenities.
Elephant Hills is priced from $455 per person share twin for two days.
Contact Active Asia direct for more information on all other tours,www.activeasia.co.nz
Thailand roadshow
Don’t miss the Amazing Thailand Roadshow on 10 May. Agents are invited to The Langham Hotel for an evening of the best in Thai tourism. Thirty-seven tourism operators will be there advising agents of new developments and updates.
Look out for your email invite.
Bangkok’s Airport Link
The Airport Link in Bangkok was officially opened at the start of this year, providing three rail link lines - two SA Express lines beginning at Phayathai Station and Makkasan Interchange, while the SA City Line begins at Phayathai Station.
1. Phayathai-Suvarnabhumi Airport Express Route (non-stop service)
This 28km route takes 18 minutes. Trains arrive every 15 minutes.
Hotels situated nearby are Pullman Bangkok King Power, Siam City, and Century Park Hotel
2. Makkasan-Suvarnabhumi Airport Express Route (non-stop service)
This 25km route takes 15 minutes. Trains arrive every 15 minutes
Hotels situated nearby: Eastin Hotel, Novotel Bangkok Platinum, Ramada DMA Bangkok, Baiyoke Sky, and Amari Watergate
3. SA City Line (Stops at six stations between Phayathai and Suvarabhumi)
This 28km route takes 30 minutes. Trains arrive every 15 minutes
While the direct Airport Link provides a fast and convenient mode of transport into the city, passengers still have to make their way from the stations to their hotel. Taxis are readily available from the street but it should be noted that some taxi drivers may reject passengers who only want to travel short distances.
For this reason it is recommended that an arrival transfer be organised for first time visitors, families and elderly passengers.
“After a ten-hour flight to Bangkok from New Zealand, passengers will welcome being met, escorted to their private car or van and taken directly to their hotel,” said Ouwehand. “Advise clients who are thinking of using the train service that they do so for their return rather than on arrival, unless they know exactly where they are going once they arrive at Makkasan or Phrayathai Station.”
A one-way ticket on the two Airport Link Express Routes is 150baht and the City Line is 20baht per stop.
The entrance to the Airport Rail Link service is located on the first floor of Suvarnabhumi Bangkok International Airport.
Thailand in your hand
TAT recently launched a webpage from which visitors can download apps for a wide range of smartphones to help them plan many different kinds of visits to Thailand, from honeymoons to studying martial arts and Thai culinary art.
Nineteen apps are available for free download athttp://mobile.tourismthailand.org for users of the iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry and Nokia.  
Altogether, the apps cover more than 10,000 topics in various areas such as medical tourism, Thai cooking classes and the sights and sounds of Chiang Mai and Phuket. One app highlights the "Top 50 Amazing Experiences in Thailand."
More Variety
Variety Hotels recently opened their newest property, Narry Hotel Patong, a 44-room boutique hotel located in the heart of Phuket. With choices from standard rooms to two-bedroom apartments, the new hotel caters for both short-term and long-stay guests. Complimentary features include Wi-Fi access throughout the property as well as a daily buffet breakfast. The hotel also boasts its own tailor shop for custom made clothing that can be tailored for guests in less than 48 hours. Additional facilities include Narry’s Sports Bar and Restaurant, which features a fusion of Thai, Indian, and Italian cuisine.
The property is also opening a sister hotel, Narry Hotel Nana, in Bangkok in mid-2012. Located on Sukhumvit Soi 11/1, the hotel will offer 52 rooms with amenities similar to Narry Hotel Phuket, including it’s own Tailor Shop.
Swissôtel rebrand
Swissôtel Hotels and Resorts has opened its first Phuket property having been appointed manager of the existing Courtyard by Marriott at Kamala Beach. The property has been re-branded as Swissôtel Resort Phuket and is located in Western Phuket, overlooking the Andaman Sea. The resort has 180 suites, with a choice of one to three bedrooms, each with a separate living room and private balcony. The resort has a lagoon-style pool, adventure club and recreational activities.
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posted @ Tuesday, April 24, 2012

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