Thai-Norwegian Business Review 2011 â€“ 1
Thai-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce
Euro-Center Interview with Mai Ellegaard
Tourism to Norway and Thailand Thai-Norwegian Business Review
Thai-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce
Contents Scandinavian Health Care in South East Asia
The Land of Festivals Don’t let your Credit Card out of sight
Does Ecotourism exist in Thailand?
New Diplomatic challenges for Anne-Marie Hauslo
Streamlining Immigration Procedures
The Puzzle of Chiang Mai Tourists
The Snowbirds of Scandinavia
Major Choakdee – My Travels to Norway
Annual General Meeting
Attracting Thai Travellers to Scandinavia
SAS explores new Profile of Travellers to Thailand
New Executive Director
New Law addesses Harassment by Creditors
Far from Home
Editor: Kristine Hasle Journalists: Eric Baker, Emma Long, Jørgen Udvang, Colin Jarvis, Nadia Willan Photographer: Jørgen Udvang Design/artwork: Kristine Hasle Advertising: Elisabeth Bashari Media Commitee: Eric Mallace, Torpong Thongcharoen, Jan Egil Amundsen
Front page picture: Surin Elephant Roundup Photographer: Jørgen Udvang
Tourism, a substantial Economic Driver Last year, 15,8 million foreign tourists whereof roughly 700,000 from the Nordic countries visited Thailand. It is estimated that 50,000 Thais visit the Nordic countries every year. In Norway, the travel industries accounts for 3.3% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and 6.4% of total employment. For Thailand tourism-related business is 6,5 % of the county’s GDP, but the sector accounts for 15 % of the total employment. Both countries have much to offer foreign tourists; Norway offers natural sights “Powered by Nature” ranging from dramatic fjord landscapes to arctic northern lights. The Norwegian Fjords was recently rated the best destination in the world by National Geographic Traveler. Thailand offers pristine beaches, festivals, shopping and food, but more than anything, Thailand’s first and foremost product is service and value for money. I realise that every time I return back to Thailand from abroad. Most countries have a lot to learn from Thai service attitude. Pivotal to the industry is aviation; with Thai Airways International opening the Oslo route in 2009, Norway became much closer to Thailand. Scandinavian Airlines continues to serve Norway through its hub in Copenhagen and in addition other airlines are serving Norway through their home bases. The latest addition is Qatar Airways that has recently announced services to Oslo. Finally we must not forget the charter carriers which deliver tourism volumes to the typical tourism destinations in Thailand. The tourists cannot be taken for granted and it takes very little to scare them away. In 2009, we saw the occupation of Bangkok’s airports by the yellow shirts and the government’s failure in containing the demonstrations hurt the tourism industry. It was only thanks to Thailand’s excellent past record that kept tourists coming to Thailand during the red riots last year. That is Thailand with the exception of Bangkok. Bangkok was more or less deserted and the tourism industry suffered enormously. Thailand needs to take care that it does not hurt the goose that lays the golden egg. That requires continuous modernisation of products so that it still delivers value for money. In addition, Thailand needs to look long term towards better environmental standards for tourism destinations. Norway also needs to modernise its tourism product portfolio and not only deliver tried and test tour group products to Thai travellers. That was one of the clearest messages delivered at the Scandinavian Tourist Board Workshop in January. Our Executive Director, Vibeke Eidsaae Corneliussen tenure has come to an end, as she and her family are preparing to move back to Norway. I would like to thank Vibeke for all she has done and wish her the best of the luck back in Norway. This also gives me an opportunity to welcome our new Executive Director, Kristine Hasle who has already been in Thailand for a year and who among other things have been helping Karine Slørdahl editing Business Review. You can read more about Kristine on page 38. We wish Kristine the best of luck in pursuing the goals of Thai-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce. Happy Reading! Sincerely, Axel Blom President Thai-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce
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Scandinavian Health Care in South by Eric Baker photo by Kristine Hasle
ou’re taking a trip to a remote area in South East Asia and you have an accident. Local medical care is inadequate or even nonexistent. You need a medical evacuation. If you’re paying out of pocket and need to be evacuated back to Europe, costs can run up to €50,000, plus most evacuation companies require payment before they will act. Everyone could do without that cost and stress, which is why most people buy travel insurance. Euro-Center is the local arm for travel insurance and assistance companies providing claims handling and cost containment, and Mai Ellegaard is the managing director for the company. “It is very hard to get a real service for your insurance. Some places say you must pay first, then claim it later. But people need someone to look at their case to see if it’s reasonable,” said Mrs Ellegaard.
Euro-Center (Thailand) offers claims assistance and a 24/7 service centre throughout South East Asia through what it dubs its unique know-how. Most of its clients are from Europe, and many of those are from Scandinavia. The company is owned by six different subsidiaries of Europeiske Reiseforsikring, including the Norwegian contingent. “Euro-Center started 40 years ago when Scandinavians started to travel to Spain and insurance companies realized they couldn’t properly deal with the claims from their home Scandinavian bases. The company has had a presence in Thailand for 22 years,” said Mrs Ellegaard. Of course, Euro-Center wants to be of use not only to the traveller but also its insurance company client. The center makes sure claimants receive proper medical care at a proper price and are not overtreated. “There’s a different kind of mentality at hospitals in this region than in Scandinavia. Some are more like hotels and often prescribe too much medicine. Scandinavians aren’t used to this and can get upset if they are handed several prescription slips, especially for their children,” she said. “It all ties together—you have to pay a higher premium if a clinic is adding on too many charges. And you should want the correct care, not unnecessary services.” Euro-Center has preferred hospitals they work with in the region as it has researched most care facilities to see what level of service they provide and what prices they charge. The center has four doctors on-site to have a dialogue with the doctors caring for policyholders to ensure proper service, and these physicians also travel extensively in South East Asia to rate medical facilities to know where to route claimants. For example, Laos and Cambodia still lack the facilities to deal with a serious injury in a manner that would make most Europeans comfortable. And sometimes these hospital visits have other consequences, such as when the center’s research has revealed illegal clinics on Thai islands and it alerted authorities to shut down the facilities.
Mai Ellegaard, mamging Director for Euro-Center 6
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The center also conducts seminars with tour operators in the area so they know how to treat their European
East Asia clients. If the operators are to be doing business with them, foremost is that tourists not get cheated. EuroCenter also advises these operators on what clinics it prefers policyholders be directed. Traffic accidents still make up a major portion of claims, so policyholders are educated about the differences in traffic culture between the East and the West. “It’s not just about the danger of motorcycles, though they certainly form a bulk of our claims. We also talk to people about how the concept of right-of-way is very different here, or in some cases nonexistent, so when driving you have to account for this shift,” said Mrs Ellegaard. Euro-Center does not sell insurance, it only provides service and assistance to insurance companies and their policyholders, a fact Mrs Ellegaard says it routinely has to prove to the Thai government. Thailand has very strict laws about what entities can offer insurance, but the center does have a few Thai clients, including Thai Vivat.
special attention to a child. These are Mrs Ellegaard’s favourite. Another effort that put Euro-Center on the map in South East Asia was its work after the tsunami of 2004 because “local organisations realised they needed our help”, she said. But her proudest moment came during the red-shirt protests in May of last year. “Large portions of Bangkok were closed due to the protests, and it wasn’t safe for our employees to travel to work or be in the building if something happened. So we evacuated to my husband’s hotel in Rayong for one week and we didn’t have even one minute of downtime for our service center,” she noted. The center can also provide a measure of relief during hardships. It has roving priests with the Norwegian Seamen’s Church in South East Asia, and when a young mother died recently on a trip with her family in the area, one was flown to the site to help them with their loss. In addition, psychologists and psychiatrists are sometimes employed to assist in these matters. Because it has policyholders from so many countries, Euro-Center has a staff of 40 that are fluent most
A recommendation for liberalisation of the service industry in Thailand was developed by the Commerce Ministry, but at the same time the Thai government is introducing protectionism measures for the insurance industry where permitted foreign equity levels will be reduced by February 2013. Mrs Ellegaard is unsure what the government will do, but feels it shouldn’t be hasty in making a decision. Adding pressure to the equation is the ratified Asean Economic Community to launch in 2015 calls for the free flow of labour. Euro-Center has had several success stories and instances when it is able to provide Thai-Norwegian Business Review
Continues from page 7
common languages spoken in Europe and Asia. Euro-Center was recently granted a Thailand Board of Investment licence for a call center, which opens up new opportunities for the company. Now it can handle calls from all over the world for banks, credit card firms, self-insurance companies and several Thai corporations. An expansion of the call center is still in the planning phase. Mrs Ellegaard is Danish, she is married to a Thai and they have a son. She is on the board of the DanishThai Chamber of Commerce and a member of ThaiNorwegian Chamber of Commerce. Her husband is involved with three enterprises so they always manage to stay busy. One hobby for her husband that may turn into another business is the fine art of Danish baking. Learning the trade from a neighbour during summer holidays, he now bakes on a small scale providing bread to the Scandinavian deli on Sukhumvit Soi 18 and Villa Market. “He’s the only real Danish baker in Thailand,” she said. “He makes actual marzipan but has to use less sugar. The humidity here changes the requirements for dough when making bread, and the butter here seems to have more water in it.”
Tourism it’s time to travel by Emma Long In 2010, Thailand welcomed a total of 124, 557 visitors from Norway — an increase 2.45 per cent over the 2009, while 50,000 Thais visited Norway. In this issue of Business Review we’re going travelling and looking at many aspects of tourism, both local and at the growth of outbound travel by Thais to Norway and the rest of the Scandinavian region. And we’re taking you with us! We all know about the wonderful beaches of Thailand, the amazing food, the friendly people and the beautiful temples. But, ask yourself, how much do you really know about the incredible Fjords of Norway? Or the vibrant capital cities of Oslo and Bergen? For this issue we examine the emerging trends of travel in particular to Norway. What are people visiting? What is enticing them to go in the first place? And how has tourism in general faired in the current economic climate? At the recent annual Scandinavian Tourism Board workshop in Bangkok, attendees from many different Thai outbound tourism operators were treated to a number of presentations by visiting tourism providers from Norway. The aim of the workshop was to increase the already increasing outbound traffic to Norway and to enlighten outbound tour operators here of the many new and exciting opportunities there were for the Thai traveller. In his key note speech, Axel Blom of Innovation Norway presented some interesting statistics about the increasing number of travellers to Norway in particular, noting that in 2010 nearly 50,000 Thai’s visited the Country and this was a number that was set to grow. We also learn about how travel is changing in this economic climate. Find out more about these trends in our cover report. We speak to Major Choakdee, a TNCC board member and a frequent traveller to Norway, on what he loves about the country and why Thai travellers are fascinated in following in the footsteps of their revered King Rama V’s visit to the Northern Cape in 1907. From the travel side, we get an interesting perspective from Scandinavia’s air carrier, SAS, in which Director and General Manager for South East Asia, Niels Henrik Hansen, talks about SAS’s current and future plans for the region, and there is also plenty of important advice for travellers in Thailand in addition to a timely profile of the declining level of tourists to Chiang Mai. Mai Ellegaard of the Euro Centre in Bangkok also talks about how the centre provides an important service to Scandinavian travellers in Thailand. So, dig out your suitcase, pack your bags and grab your passport (and a copy of your Business Review of course!). Enjoy your holiday!
The Land of Festivals text and photo by Jørgen Udvang
n the old days, before mass tourism, tourists travelled to Thailand because it was exotic, beautiful and friendly, and because there were lots of things to see, things that couldn’t be found in the countries the travellers came from. Beaches, temples and elephants were some of the important keywords. Then there was Thai food. And festivals. The festivals that drew attention then, and still do, were the ones with religious and/or traditional significance, like Songkran and Loy Kratong. In a country that seems to aim at making tourism increasingly interesting and sometimes spectacular, it makes sense to build new attractions on something that has already proven successful. And since this country seems to have a collective talent for arranging festivals and events, making more would probably make more people more happy. So, the number of festivals is growing. The festivals that were already there have grown in volume and increased in spectacle. Smaller, often local, celebrations have grown into fully fledged festivals, attracting thousands of guests, and every year, some province or district invents another new festival. There’s a long way from Loy Kratong to Bang Saen Speed Festival, but they both have in common that people attend in the thousands or hundreds of thousands, and there will be decorations, pretty girls and food. Good food and enough of it too. As a foreigner, it’s easy to assume that many of these festivals are created to attract more foreign tourists to Thailand. Some are of course, but at most of them, the majority of the visitors are Thai nationals, either locals or inland tourists, thus maintaining the local signature that is paramount for a
Thai festival to be just that: a showcase of Thai culture and the Thai way of life. It’s impossible to present anything but a small fraction of festivals in Thailand within one magazine article, but to give an impression of the enormous variation of the festivals of this country, here is a small collection. For those who want to know more about festivals in Thailand, there’s a list of useful web addresses at the end of this article. Rap Bua festival, Bang Plee District, Samut Prakan According to tradition, two centuries ago, three sacred Buddha images floated down the Chao Phraya, Bangpakong, and Ta Chin Rivers. Although attempts were made to pull the images to shore, they seemed to have more distant destinations in mind, and resisted all efforts. The Luang Pho Sothon image eventually came to rest at Chachoengsao, the Luang Pho Wat Ban Laem in Samut Songkhram, and the Luang Pho To in Bang Plee. The Rap Bua fete itself most likely has its origins from Burmese Mon war refugees, and since Bang Plee produces an abundance of beautiful lotus flowers, the festival can be experienced there, towards the end of the monsoon season every year. The festival goes on for days, with concerts, beauty contests, markets and boat races on the klong. But the main event is on the last day when early in the morning, a Buddha image is towed along the klong, past Bang Plee Old market which is a small attraction in itself, while tens of thousands of people throw lotus flowers onto the barge until only the head of Buddha is visible. The main barge is followed by several richly decorated boats, that are “paddled” by beautiful girls in traditional Thai costumes. Strangely enough, few foreigners ever go to see this spectacle, although it’s happening every year just 20 minutes by car from Bang Na in the eastern part of Bangkok. Thai-Norwegian Business Review
Continues from page 11: The Land of Festivals
Surin Elephant Roundup, Surin City The majority of elephant owners and mahouts in Thailand today are descendants of the “Kui” tribe (or “Suay” in Thai). They are thought to have migrated from Cambodia to settle largely in the northeastern provinces near the Cambodian border. The Ban Ta Klang Elephant Village in Surin Province is home of the Kui, who, for centuries, have tended to and trained elephants for use throughout Thailand. The event itself is of more recent origins, dating back to 1960. It goes on for over a week in November every year, with hundreds of elephants and their mahouts gathering for shows and activities. Activities span from elephant breakfast to elephant football and reenactments of wars between Thailand and Cambodia, with elephants, mahouts and soldiers in traditional war outfits. For those who want too understand the importance of elephants in Thai history, this festival is a great experience. Bo Sang Umbrella Festival, Chiang Mai Near Chiang Mai City is the village of Bo Sang, where traditional umbrellas made from paper or silk have been created for many years. Once a rather modest activity, it has developed into an important industry for the district, although the umbrellas are still made by hand.
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In January every year, they celebrate themselves with an Umbrella Festival, showing off the best of their handicraft in parades, concerts and beauty contests. It’s a very colourful event, that gives insight into the craft of umbrella making and local life in the village. Bang Saen Speed Festival, Bang Saen, Chonburi A few years ago, several organisations and sponsors, including Tourism Authority of Thailand and Royal Automobile Association of Thailand, started what have become known as Bang Saen Speed Festival. For a week, the roads of this seaside resort is changed into a race circuit resembling Monaco during the Formula-1 races. Although there are no Formula-1 cars in Thailand, the races, from early in the morning to late in the afternoon, Wednesday to Sunday, manage to attract over 100,000 people every year. There are races for standard cars, classic cars, pickup trucks and touring cars with 5-700 horsepower and top speeds around 300 kilometers per hour. Anybody with the slightest interest in motor sports, or those who just like to have lunch in a noisy environment, will enjoy a stay in Bang Saen during the race week in November. As is very often the case with big festivals in Thailand, access is free, since sponsors pay the costs, so anybody, rich or poor, can enjoy some racing drama at the waterfront between Chonburi and Sriracha.
Buffalo Races in Chonburi City Not far from Bang Saen, around the time of the full moon in the 11th lunar month, usually the first weekend in October (and usually at the same time as Rap Bua Festival in Bang Plee), truckload after truckload of mud is dumped onto the big square in front of the city hall of Chonburi City. It’s time for the annual Buffalo Races. Young men ride their buffalos the distance of a few hundred meters at surprisingly high speed, fighting for honor and trophies, and the chance to enter the stage in the afternoon together with “Miss Farm Maiden”, the winner of the unavoidable beauty contest which is held on race day. But there’s more; a real country fair with ferris wheel, roller coaster for the children and dart competitions and, unsurprisingly, food, lots of Thai food. And if you want to buy yourself a buffalo, this is the place to go. Longboat Races Water was an important ingredient when Thailand was shaped, and is the center of attention for religious festivals as well as for agriculture, fisheries and not least transportation. Mostly in September and October, there are longboat races in all parts of the country. Many of them are big events, stretching over several days, accompanied by the usual selection of food, markets and entertainment. The earliest records of these races can be traced back to King Ekathotsarot (1605-1610) of Ayuttaya.
Traditionally, the races were held in the 11th lunar month, October, when the rainy season was near its final stages. Several classes of boats participate, but by far the most spectacular are the races between the 55 man canoes. The race form resembles the American drag races; the first of two boats to reach the finish of the straight race strip is the winner. The races take place on rivers, lakes and reservoirs close to the shore, and are very spectator friendly. Some of the most important races are held in Ayuttaya, Pattaya, Pra Pradaeng, Pichit and Pitsanulok. As stated at the beginning of this article, mentioning all festivals or even all kinds of festivals in Thailand in one article is simply not possible. So music festivals, boat races and balloon festivals will have to wait for a later occasion. For those who would like to learn more about festivals in Thailand, there are several websites that are relatively informative. One word of warning though: When checking the date and month for a particular event, check the year also. The websites aren’t always updated regularly, and arriving on the date for last year’s event isn’t nearly as much fun. www.tourismthailand.org www.tatnews.org www.thailand.com www.thailandgrandfestival.com www.sawadee.com
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Don’t let your Credit Card out of Sight by Eric Baker
aking purchases with a credit card while on holiday has become so commonplace that most people don’t give it a second thought. But the opportunity for credit card fraud exists no matter the destination if travellers ignore some simple rules. Consider the following scenarios. SCENE 1 A friend went to the local gym and placed his belongings in a locker. After the workout and a shower, he came out, saw the locker open, and thought to himself, ’Funny, I thought I locked the locker.’ He dressed and flipped through his wallet to make sure all was in order and all the cards were in place. A few weeks later his credit card bill came and was a whopping $14,000! He called the credit card company to protest the charges. Customer care personnel verified there was no mistake in the system and asked if his card had been stolen. ’No,’ he said, but then took out his wallet, pulled out the credit card, and you guessed it-a switch
had been made. An expired credit card from the same bank was in the wallet. The thief broke into his locker at the gym and switched cards. The card issuer said since he did not report the card missing earlier, he would have to pay the amount owed to them, some $9,000! Why were there no calls made to verify the amount swiped? Small amounts rarely trigger a warning bell with some credit card companies. SCENE 2 A man at a local restaurant paid for his meal with his credit card. The bill for the meal came, he signed it and the waitress folded the receipt and passed the credit card along. Usually he would just place it in his wallet, but for some reason he took a look at the card before putting it away and, lo and behold, it was the expired card of another person. He called the waitress and she looked perplexed. She took it back, apologised, and hurried back to the counter under the watchful eye of the man. She waved the expired card to the counter cashier as she walked over and he immediately looked down and took out the real card. No exchange of words, nothing. She took it and came back to the man with an apology. Verdict: Make sure the credit cards in your wallet are yours. Check the name on the card every time you sign for something and/or the card is taken away for even a short period of time. Many people just take back the credit card without even looking at it, assuming it has to be theirs. SCENE 3 A woman went into a pizza restaurant to pick up an order. She paid using her Visa Check Card, which is linked directly to her checking account. The young man behind the counter took the card, swiped it, then laid it on the counter as he waited for the approval, which is pretty standard procedure. While he waited, he picked up his cell phone and started dialing. She noticed it’s the same model she has, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Then she heard a click that sounded like her phone sounds when she takes a picture. He then gave her back the card but kept the phone in his hand as if he was still pressing buttons.
photo by Bigstock, Suprijono Suharjoto 14
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She’s wondering what he is taking a picture of, oblivious to what was really going on. Then it dawned on her: the only thing there was her credit card, so now she’s paying close attention to him. He set his phone on the counter, leaving it open. About five seconds later, she heard the chime that tells you
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the picture has been saved. So she’s standing there struggling with the fact that this boy just took a picture of her credit card. He played it off well, because if they did not have the same kind of phone, she probably never would have known what happened. She immediately cancelled the card while walking out the pizza parlour. Verdict: Be aware of your surroundings at all times. These scenarios don’t mean you should avoid using your credit cards while you travel. But you need to be aware of some risks and follow these simple rules. 1 Don’t let your credit card out of your sight. You don’t know what’s going on when you can’t see your card being processed. 2 Pay attention to what’s going on around you as you use your credit card. Is someone paying attention to you? In Thailand, there is very little fraud with Thai credit cards because criminals know Thai banks are likely to prosecute them. But fraudsters also know foreign card companies are unlikely to take them to the Thai courts, so they prey on these cards. Conversely, when Thais travel there are certain countries or regions where merchants don’t want to accept Thai credit cards, such as Hong Kong and Malaysia. The lesson is you are always more vulnerable to fraud when travelling.
Another problem is that credit cards have three-digit PIN codes on the back of them that you are not supposed to allow the merchant to see. If they know that number along with your card number, they could use it to make purchases over the internet. But if you rub the numbers out, then some merchants won’t take the card. In Europe and the United States, more restaurants are adopting mobile credit card terminals they bring to your table and your credit card never has to leave your sight. Thailand is still a long way off from accepting this technology, but Nera (Thailand) is doing its best to try and encourage the market. Be mindful of Scene 2 when you pay with a credit card and the waiter runs off with the card. Even purchases over the internet are becoming more risky as fraudsters get smarter every day about scams. There are chinks in the armour of the 3D-Secure systems that MasterCard and Visa tout, as phishing, pharming, spoofing and carding trick users into revealing card data to fraudsters. China, Russia and Africa have proven to be hotbeds of “card not present” fraud. Keep your anti-virus programmes updated and never send credit card details by e-mail, or break the e-mail up into two messages if need be. The bottom line is you can never be completely safe when paying by credit cards abroad, but following a few reasonable rules should give you peace of mind. Thai-Norwegian Business Review
Does Ecotourism exist in Thailand? by Eric Baker
cotourism has become such a buzz word, with operators eager to cash in on tourists’ appreciation for the environment, that some tour operators feel the word has no meaning. But as long as tourists are interested in seeing and preserving natural beauty, there will always be a market for environmentally sensitive operators. Some common sense guidelines for an eco-friendly tour operator: leave little or no impact on the environment you are visiting, educate and employ locals if you want the business to be sustainable, and combine natural history and cultural concerns. Some consider John Gray the father of ecotourism, starting commercial ecotours in Hawaii in 1983 and arriving in Thailand in 1989. But for his part, he’s had enough of the term. “I’ve been doing ‘ecotourism’ since the 1950s when my family gave up hotels for a camper and trailered boat and started visiting remote Mexican villages. We were always environmentally and culturally sensitive and even got involved in some land rights struggles,” said Mr Gray. “The word ecotourism was actually coined in 1991 in Costa Rica, and I open my talks by saying the word had validity for three days-then ‘Greenwash’ was invented.” Greenwash means the word ecotourism became “overused and bogus” because every operator started using it to promote their company without actually following any of the movement’s principles. Mr Gray’s sea kayaking companies and tours, which in Thailand focus on Phang Nga Bay, have won a raft of awards including the 2008 SKAL International Ecotourism Award, but as you can imagine, he thinks actions speak louder than awards. “Most of the worst citizens in Phang Nga Bay have ‘Keep the Bay Clean’ and ‘Phang Nga Ecotourism’ plastered on the side of their highly polluting twostroke speedboats. True kayakers, despite the use of four-stroke speedboats, go out of our way not to use motors. Combining speedboats and sea kayaks is merely advertising the fact that these folks have no understanding of the sea kayaking ethic, i.e., handpowered non-motorised silent locomotion. I sneak
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up on birds and get their photos not only before they fly away, but hold conversations while I snap off numerous shots. Scott Coates, the co-founder of Smiling Albino, a South East Asia custom travel company, agreed the term ecotourism is one of the most overused in the industry, but his firm does try to have a green ethic. “It’s about not wasting paper on the programmes you give guests, and working with hotels that treat their staff well and have their own environmental programmes. We pay all our guides and drivers more than the industry norm, not only to attract the best team members, but to eliminate the need for commissions/kickbacks,” said Mr Coates. “Ultimately it’s of utmost importance that we leave all areas we travel cleaner or better than we found them, and always remember we’re guests in the areas we travel. From dealing with small, local shops and suppliers as much as possible to using large bottles of water to cut down the amount of plastic we use, we put a lot of thought into how we treat the physical and social environment during all our trips.” Smiling Albino also believes in taking part in a number of community projects throughout Asia, including schools, hospitals and animal sanctuaries. Leaving sites cleaner than you found them was always going to be an arduous task in a country where many children are not taught it’s wrong to litter. But the Thai government realises the importance of tourism to the economy and at least has been paying lip service to wanting to encourage more eco-friendly tour operators. Neither Mr Gray nor Mr Coates can cite many resorts that are truly eco-friendly. “Most who do are low key,” said Mr Gray. “Koh Yao resort is not air conditioned and highly environmental, but a famous chest thumper next door, on a much smaller and artificial beach with luxurious air-conditioned bungalows, still offers twostroke speedboat tours at their companion resort in Phuket. I don’t understand it, as we once trained their activities staff on safe sea kayaking and the activities director cried, saying if he had the same training at his Phuket resort complex one of his staff would not have drowned.” Mr Coates also has reason to be sceptical. “We find it a bit ridiculous over the last few years while inspecting resort hotels to have them tell us how
concerned about the environment they are then be shown the room’s giant bath tub or private pool. The explosion of pools for each room and huge sink-tubs is a bit puzzling when at the same time almost every hotel warns guests to use water responsibly and use their towels for as many days as possible,” said Mr Coates. Mr Gray’s had his ups and downs even trying to establish an ecotourism company in the Land of Smiles. Phuket’s been on the tourist map for a while, but he was the first to explore the craggy karst limestone topography of Phang Nga Bay by commercial tour. That meant exploring caves previously the province of territorial gatherers of highly prized bird’s nests. These gatherers, whose harvest ends up as expensive Chinese soup, were awarded concessions to collect nests in the national park and wanted compensation for affecting their livelihood.
uneducated tourists on mass snorkel trips throughout Thailand often stand on coral and break it off because they can’t even swim, some visitors to Phang Nga Bay snap off stalactites for souvenirs.
His refusal to pay is widely believed to be the reason why Mr Gray received death threats and his operations manager was shot and severely wounded.
“They were shocked at the current status quo, and we are all hoping that our observations will eventually make a difference. However, given the mass tourism slant of both speedboat and ‘SeaCanoe’ operators in the Phang Nga Bay, I am skeptical that anything will be left to protect before the last of Phang Nga’s nature is gone,” said Mr Gray.
Mr Gray also tried to impose limits on the number of visitors to the caves per day to limit the impact, but now numerous competitors ensure the whole area is jammed, noisy, and often free of wildlife. Just as
He maintains his company in Thailand, but Mr Gray now spends more time with his ventures in Vietnam, the Philippines and Fiji. There have been some success stories in Thailand, such as the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. But most of them are small-scale independent operators and government support has been slow to materialise. As for what the future holds for ecotourism in Thailand, Mr Gray just did a field trip with the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a UN agency, the Thailand Environmental Institute and an incognito National Parks administrator.
Thai-Norwegian Business Review
New diplomatic Challenges for Anne-Marie Hauslo by Emma Long photo by Jørgen Udvang
nne-Marie Hauslo joined the Norwegian Embassy here in Bangkok in December 2010 after nearly four and a half years at the Norwegian Consulate in Pattaya. At the Embassy Anne-Marie’s voice is mostly likely the one you will hear when calling for advice. The issues that she deals with over the telephone, or via email, are varied and wide ranging and she says herself that no two days are ever the same. Anne-Marie explained that tourists generally fall into 3 categories. Firstly, your average 2 week stay tourist. Secondly, those who came for an extended 2 to 12 weeks stay and finally those who come to stay longterm. The most common enquiry is in relation to retirement information from those wishing to retire here. Anne-Marie will provide information on the visa requirements and all the necessary paperwork that needs to be filed. To further illustrate the range of enquiries she receives on a daily basis, Anne-Marie talked about a couple of recent enquiries. One was from a family with young children in Norway planning their trip to Thailand and were enquiring about bringing food and the import restrictions, another was from a young man who recently arrived from Stockholm and who was due to meet his Norwegian friend at the airport and who hadn’t turned up. There are then of course the usual enquiries such as hotel addresses, food poisoning, visa questions and lost or stolen passports and money as well as marriage applications and registrations of births. In extreme cases it can even be robbery, fraud and arrest and were most often found in those who were staying in Thailand for an extended period. In addition to that were applications for marriage in Thailand, registration of births for children. As previously mentioned Anne-Marie was based at the Norwegian Consulate in Pattaya. The role of a Consulate is different to that of an Embassy. A Consulate is generally located in a major tourist or
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commercial city, and takes care of minor diplomatic tasks such as providing general advice and assistance to citizens who either live or who are visiting that city. For Anne-Marie, there were many challenges during her time there, “At first I was very surprised by the types of people I met” she says, “I had never come across these types of people in Norway. These were people who didn’t give any thought to how they were going to live. They would come down to Pattaya with no plans. Some would come as tourists and then just stay, they would get caught up in the whole lifestyle. They were mainly those in their 40’s who would just end up staying with no money, no visa, nothing! It was a real eye opener.”. Every day was different and in one 24 hours, Anne-Marie could be dealing with someone who couldn’t find their way back to their hotel to someone who had decided to buy a business only to be fleeced of their money and possessions. I asked Anne-Marie how she managed to remain objective when faced with sometimes difficult situations.
“In Norway, I worked for the Norwegian Post for 15 years within Human Resources and during that time the company underwent a restructure where many people were made redundant. I was part of that process and had to let people (and people I knew) go. It was very difficult and after 3 week vacation, I managed to gain a some professional distance and objectivity which I think helped me greatly at the Consulate.” A degree of healthy scepticism is also necessary, “you often didn’t know if someone was telling you the truth or not.” For Anne-Marie, probably the most difficult cases were those involving young Thai women who found themselves pregnant and came to the Consulate looking for help, “in some of these cases” says Anne-Marie, “the women had been left with no money or no idea of the whereabouts or even the identities of the fathers. These were mainly girls who couldn’t even read or write and that was difficult as in some cases you wanted to help them more than you were able to.”
Now at the Embassy, I asked Anne-Marie what she liked about her new role and what she missed, if anything of her old one, “at the Consulate I was working alone, and it wasn’t until I came to Bangkok that I realised how much I missed being surrounded by colleagues! It makes a nice difference. If there is one thing I miss about the job at the Consulate is the face to face contact with people and I do miss my home by the sea. My husband and I go back there (to Jomtiem) every weekend. We love the sea air there and feel settled. Thailand is our home now.” For someone who has seen all walks of life walk through the door, Anne-Marie is ready for the new challenges in Bangkok. And whilst they may be ones that are, this time, at the end of an email or phone call, she is always ready with words of assistance.
Streamlining Immigration Procedures by Eric Baker
The centre is open for applications
The Norwegian embassy decided due to increasing workloads it would outsource its visa and residence permit applications to VFS Global. In addition to more staff and longer opening hours, leading to shorter waiting lines, the centre also offers a courier service, a call centre that speaks both English and Thai, and photocopying and photography services.
Phone: 02-256-9179 Web: www.vfsglobal.com/norway.thailand
hough the new visa application centre for the embassies of Norway, Sweden and Denmark opened on July 14, 2010 at Amarin Tower, visitors may be unfamiliar with its services and requirements.
“Since the centre opened the average time to assess applications is two to five days. Before it opened it was two weeks, so it has been a success,” said Øyvind Lorenzen, an attache at the Norwegian embassy. “Before we spent a lot of time going over the checklists to make sure the applicants had everything they needed, or explaining to them when they could come back and reapply.” The main reasons applicants were denied visas or residence permits were insufficient documentation or insufficient funds in a bank account if an applicant is not visiting a close relative in Norway, said Mr Lorenzen. “The documentation varies based on what you are doing. If you’re visiting a close relative, of course you don’t need a hotel room, but you need an invitation from your relative,” said Mr Lorenzen. “If not you need sufficient money in a bank account or proof of a job or property or a guarantor for your trip.” “I should point out 93% of applicants receive a visa, and for family immigration outside Schengen member countries, Thailand ranked No. 1 last year with 940 Thais receiving residence permits for Norway.” The easiest way to handle the process is to fill out the application online, pay the fee by credit card and make an appointment to submit passports and supporting documents. “In the past, you may have had to wait several hours to complete all those tasks. Now it takes about 20 minutes to complete it all online and they can get an 20
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Monday to Friday 08.00 - 12.00 and 13.00 - 15.00 These are also the hours for the call centre.
Located: Amarin Tower, 8th floor, Connected to the BTS Skytrain Station Chitlom appointment for the next day or the day after. For Thais who don’t understand English, they can have their companion or relative fill it in for them,” said Mr Lorenzen. The application fee for any visa is 60 euros, meaning if you are refused the visa you don’t get your money back. In addition, there is a service charge of 535 baht for online applications with prior appointment, 645 baht for online applications registered by the applicant at the centre, and 750 baht for an application submitted on paper. Applicants can pick up their passports and visas at the centre between 1 pm and 4 pm, Monday through Friday. Schengen visas allow applicants to travel among its 25 member countries with just one stamp. You apply for a Schengen visa with the country where you plan to be staying the longest during your trip. Schengen visas allow a maximum stay of 90 days, and while multiple-entry visas with one-year validity are available, applicants still cannot stay in Schengen countries for more than 90 days within a six-month period. The centre expects to change to a biometric fingerprint system sometime next year, which means applicants will have to show up in person for their document submission, even if they are travelling with an accredited travel agency. Thais applying for Schengen visas to Norway have risen rapidly the past few years, from 4,876 in 2008 to over 8,000 in 2009 and down to 6,857 last year. The embassy expects applications this year will keep
rising and it attributes the 2009 leap to Thai Airways International launching a Bangkok to Oslo route that year. The courier service allows applicants to have their visa applications, documents and passports sent by registered mail to their office or home address by paying a nominal fee. The photography service ensures pictures meet Schengen regulations and the photocopying service costs three baht per page. The visa application centre is located on the 8th floor of Amarin Tower, which is connected to the BTS Skytrain station Chitlom. The centre merely receives applications; the embassy still makes the evaluation of whether to grant the visa or residence permit.
The Puzzle of Chiang Mai Tourists text and photo by Colin Jarvis
of the tourists is nowhere near as good as it used to be. She pointed out that there has been an increase in the number of tourists from Malaysia and other neighbouring countries and whilst these people are counted as tourists they tend to stay for only a few days rather than the eight days that is the average stay of European tourists and they spend far less.
Understandably, if one talks to TAT, one is given a positive briefing but not necessarily the whole picture. I therefore decided to talk to people I knew in Chiang Mai who are involved in the tourism business.
Until recently, the 1½ million residents in Chiang Mai played host to 1 million visitors a year. In the Chiang Mai area tourism is, without doubt, the most important industry and the region has been savaged by the fall in income from tourists. Recently I spoke to a man who runs a small fleet of tourist minibuses. You know the ones: silver, with big aerials on the back, comfortable seats and air conditioning. These buses are normally booked to about 70 - 80% of capacity but in the last year this figure has dropped to about 10% with a very small increase over the Christmas period.
he other day I was very surprised when I discovered that more tourists visited Thailand during 2010, than ever before. These figures must be reliable as they are produced by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). Yet, up here in Chiang Mai, the impression is that the tourist industry is struggling. This was a puzzle that I wanted to solve.
First I went to see Mr Frank, one of Chiang Mai’s most famous tailors. “It may be that tourist numbers are up but the “quality” of the tourists has fallen”, Mr Frank said. “My business is now less than 40% of what it was three years ago. We used to get many families and everyone would buy a suit or a dress. Now the visitors are mainly young people on limited budgets. Most of them look as though they never wear a suit anyway! In the night bazaar there used to be 250 shops, now there are only 100. Most of my business comes from people who have been recommended to me, new customers are very rare.” This comment of Mr Frank’s about the quality of tourists is quite important. The Tourist Authority of Thailand publishes figures which simply give the numbers of tourists but does not indicate their quality. It is definitely true that most of the small, inexpensive guesthouses seem to be doing well as are the cheaper bars. However the five-star hotels are almost silent. The reception areas, bars and restaurants used to be steaming but now it is a surprise when you see another person. According to Khun Rachan Veeraphan, Organiser of the recent International Health Promotion Conference “Many hotels have seen occupancy as low as 10% and although figures have increased recently, particularly over the Christmas peak period, we are nothing like as busy as they used to be. I went to see Khun Boong who runs the Boutique Travel Service in Chiang Mai. Khun Boong arranges tours and events for tourists as well as planning complete holiday packages. She is convinced that the actual number of tourists has fallen in Chiang Mai, over the last 18 months and confirms that the quality 22
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There is no doubt, in my mind, that the value of tourism in the Chiang Mai region has fallen substantially. I see many small businesses that have been struggling for the past two years as they rely on tourism for their income. These businesses, whether they be bars or other entertainment, transportation, accommodation or support services such as laundries, bakeries and coffee shops, are vulnerable. These companies form an important infrastructure in support of the tourism industry. If they go out of business they will be hard to replace and it could take years to recover the level of service that, until recently, was provided to a million happy tourists. Why did it happen? Over the past eight years or so, Thailand has suffered from a number of events that has seriously damaged the tourism business. The tsunami, bird flu, political unrest and demonstrations and a world economic crisis have all reduced the attraction of Thailand to tourists. What I find interesting about all of these events, apart from the economic crisis, is that within three to four months people seem to start rebooking holidays in Thailand. Thailand is a strong brand with a wonderful image and most potential tourists see these events as being over once the events disappear from the news programmes. Chris Lee used to be marketing manager of TAT in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. He then became commercial director of a major tour operator
specialising in package tours to Thailand, and is now a travel consultant working with tour operators and TAT. Chris is fairly optimistic, “In the last 13 years since I started working with Thailand we have had to tackle just about every man-made and natural disaster but the kingdom’s tourist industry has always bounced back I have complete confidence it will do so again”. Chris also makes another important point. “One of the greatest difficulties we have had is the so-called “advisory” information given by various governments. They may intend these to be advisory but if they advise people not to visit a particular area then travel insurance is automatically voided. This means that travel operators cannot send their clients to a nominated area, even if the client has already paid for the tour. The effect is that the advisory notice becomes compulsory”. Whilst the tourist business may recover quickly from natural disasters and political demonstrations the same cannot be said for the so-called, Global Economic Crisis. We can now see this crisis was not really global. Certainly every country has been affected but the real damage was done in Europe and North America. People in these countries have seen the value of their houses fall, their job security reduced, their future financial security damaged and their general feeling of confidence in the future fading to almost nothing. These people are, quite sensibly, paying off their debts and trying to build a cash bank to cover future emergencies. Such people do not travel thousands of miles to partake in expensive holidays. History shows that single events, once they are over, have little effect on tourism bookings. My conclusion is that tourism to Thailand is suffering mainly because of the financial situation faced by many Western potential tourists. This is a problem that is not going to get better soon.
What Can Be Done? There are really two questions that need to be answered. How can the number and quality of tourists be increased and what else can be done to secure the economic future of the Chiang Mai region. The Western tourists will come back when they have the opportunity and no amount of promotion or persuasion will bring them whilst they are worried about their future and their currency will not buy them very much. The answer therefore is to increase the number of tourists from other countries, particularly those in the region where the cost of travel would not be as great as coming from Europe or America. China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Korea, Japan and other such countries should become the main focus of tourist promotion to Thailand. There is one other country that should certainly not be overlooked and that is Australia. The city and the region is certainly attempting to diversify. A new industrial park is being built, CNXwood a centre for filmmaking is planned. The infrastructure is to be developed with concepts for a new airport and a fast train link between Chiang Mai and Bangkok. Perhaps the most interesting initiative, led by Chiang Mai University, is the development of Chiang Mai as a creative city. Can this succeed? Without doubt it can, Chiang Mai is a wonderful place to live and work and communications are already splendid and will no doubt get better. We should remember that tourism to Thailand, some 10 years ago, accounted for about 10% of GNP. Now it accounts for about 6½ % of GNP. The same needs to happen to Chiang Mai. Now I realise what is happening to tourism in Chiang Mai. Why don’t you come up for a break? It’s quiet and peaceful and the hotels are very inexpensive! At the moment. Thai-Norwegian Business Review
The Snowbirds of Scandinavia by Nadia Willan
hailand has long ruled supreme as the ultimate Asian holiday destination. The beaches, the food, the weather and the mellow everyday attitudes – not to mention the twinkling culture of the temples are an exotic allure for just about everyone, anywhere in the world. But international headline news in 2010 revealed a country not entirely in karmic balance and as embassies around the world advised tourists to avoid the troubles, Thailand’s winning smile looked set to turn down as visitors avoided the capital at least. Whilst the economy has stayed buoyant in Thailand, the so-called ‘two week millionaires’ - as tourists are sometimes teasingly called by the locals - have been feeling the economic pinch. Anecdotally the streets have seemed quieter since the ‘troubles’ but according to the official figures, international tourist figures to January 2011 are over 1.7 million, an increase of over 150,000 in the last year.
already booked. They didn’t cancel but changed to destinations other than Bangkok.” Russia has the highest numbers of natives sinking into the sands, with over 120,000 ‘snowbirds’ escaping the Baltic cold up to January this year. Swedes lead the way, along with the UK in Europe with over 70,000 jetting to the capital. Over 20,000 Norwegians landed in Thailand which is still far behind the rest of Scandanavia. However, a relatively new direct route to Oslo will no doubt attract more Norwegians in the coming year. In Asia, it is the Malaysians and Chinese who top the tourist polls. Regardless of perceptions of Thailand it has been the economic slump which has caused tourist figures to fall in recent years, the world over. “Travelling to Thailand decreased in 2008 and 2009,” explains Martin. “If we look at the whole year of 2010 for the Scandinavian market, Norway and Denmark are back on same level as before the economic crises started 2008.” Once the tourists are here it is important that they see Thailand as a value for money destination.It would be good if compulsory gala dinners at Christmas, New Year, Chinese New Year and Songkran were dropped. People want to chose by themselves where and when to eat.” The three major groups from Scandinavia are families with children, elderly couples and young backpackers. But there are many retired singles, couples or families that buy a house or an apartment and move here. Many stay for the whole year whilst others are looking for a long stay over the winter season in Scandinavia.
Martin Rosborg, Managing Director of Asia & Overseas Travel Partner Co., Ltd. explains why such bad PR has not been reflected in visitor numbers. “Of course the protests are negative for Thailand as a tourist country. But the traveling from Scandinavia was not really affected by the internal unrest. Most people had 24
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Experienced in running a travel company that arranges accommodation, excursions, as well as inbound and domestic products and services, Martin predicts there will be some changes in what people do when they get to Thailand. “Most Scandinavians who travel to Thailand go directly to their destination, either by direct flight or by connection via Bangkok. Most stay at one destination, or if they stay elsewhere it will primarily be Bangkok for a few days. We have got more requests and bookings for Koh Lanta, Krabi and Ao Nang, as well as Koh Samui and Koh Chang than we used to, but Phuket is still the biggest beach destination. ”When it comes to coming to Thailand on holiday there seems to be little difference between the
nationalities about what they want – the beach. More and more people do seem to be venturing further afield and the spotlight has turned on other parts of the country. Most Scandanavians pitch up in Thailand and park their towel on an idyllic beach but more people coming to Thailand are also starting to be more interested in visiting another South East Asian country as part of a mini-tour, whether Laos, Vietnam or Cambodia. Welcoming holidaymakers into Thailand for the last few years, Martin Rosborg has seen some changes. “The eastern seaboard south of Pattaya and down all the way to the border of Cambodia is getting more and more visitors. Islands like Koh Samed and Koh Chang are established as attractive destinations and now even
smaller islands like Koh Kood, Koh Mak and Koh Wai are gaining in popularity.” There are still hidden gems to be found though despite the growing tourist numbers. “Mu Ko Chang National Park is a collection of over 40 large and small islands. This National Park is located in the southeastern region of Thailand in Trat province, close to the border with Cambodia. The main island Koh Chang is well known but there are many other islands to discover here.” Whilst the world economy stumbles to what is hopefully recovery, and Thailand’s political unrest takes respite from the streets, the thirst for travel and for the ‘good-life’ are proving to be priceless to those from colder climes and it seems that in that respect Thailand can do no wrong.
The Scandinavians are still attracted to the sun, sand and sea, photo by Jørgen Udvang Thai-Norwegian Business Review
Major Choakdee: My Travels to Norway by Emma Long photos from Major Choakdee
ajor Choakdee is the Vice President and Country Manager of NERA Thailand, a Norwegian owned company that specialises in microwave transmission technology, fixed satellite earth stations and power network communication. Prior to joining NERA, where he has been for 17 years, he was in the Thai Military where he achieved the rank of Major. He is also sits on the Board of the Thai-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce. Meeting Major Choakdee is like meeting your favourite Uncle. A warm and friendly man with a ready smile and a twinkle in his eye. “You would like photos of my trips to Norway?” he asks, “I have plenty of material for you!” he says laughing. Working for a Norwegian company means that trips to the Country are frequent and usually business related, but for Major Choakdee, this is fine by him. Full of anecdotes, photographs and memories he clearly enjoys travelling there and speaks of Norway with the fondness you’d expect from a local.
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He talked about what he loves about Norway and the unique magnet that draws Thais to the far North Cape of the Country. “I’ve been travelling to Norway since 1985, at least once or sometimes twice a year. My trips are mostly always business related as I always like to take customers with me. So, I act like a bit of a tour guide and show them around the country and take them to some of my favourite places.” The number of Thai visitors to Norway is increasing. In 2010 almost 50,000 Thais visited the Country. Major Chaokdee gave an insight as to why he believes the numbers are growing, “Thais have an enormous respect for His Majesty, King Rama V. In 1907, King Rama travelled to the North Cape of Norway in what has become a legendary piece of history for the Thai people. The majority of those who visit Norway do so because they want to follow in His Majesty’s footsteps. The journey the King took back then was very difficult and very long and that captures the imagination of the Thai people. When they reach the North Cape they are rewarded with a museum that is dedicated to His Majesty and which commemorates his amazing journey and there is also a shrine where they can pay their respects.”
We all have favourite places when we visit somewhere on a regular basis and for Major Choakdee it is the small towns on the West Coast and Northern Norway such as Bergen and Tromsø and, “the towns are so quiet and peaceful, you can relax there. There is also something about the small towns that Thai people may not know about and that is the cheap shopping! You can get well known, high-end brands of shoes and watches at very affordable prices. I am also lucky because our Head Office is based in Bergen.” Of all his visits, there is one particular memory that stands out for the Major, and that is fishing for Norwegian King Crabs. “On one particular visit I took a group to one of my favourite regions of the Country, the Fjords, to go fishing for King crabs. We all laughed that we looked like astronauts as we were suited up in thick, warm protective clothing The water was so cold! We caught the crabs and when we got back on shore our guide used water from a nearby stream to boil the crabs. The water is that clean and fresh. But, the one
thing that makes me laugh is that we still brought our own crab sauce from Thailand!” It seems there are some things one can’t do without! Is there anything that Norway could do to improve the vacation experience for Thai visitors? “Most tour programmes follow the journey of King Rama V, so I think a good thing would be to create transport packages especially for the journey from Oslo to Bergen and then up to the North Cape, the route that follows the path of King Rama V. It is very expensive and there are a lot of changes from trains to buses and then back to trains etc. So, if they could create some sort of package then I think that would be very attractive for Thais planning on visiting the Country.” So, whilst Major Choakdee may not be Norwegian, he is a great, and very enthusiastic ambassador for the Country! Så la oss reise! (So let’s go!)
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Far from Home by Jørgen Udvang
he summer of 1907 saw a prominent visitor to Norway, His Majesty King Chulalongkorn from the Kingdom of Siam. Norway was a nation that had only been independent for two years, since the resolution of the union with Sweden in 1905, but the diplomatic relations between the two countries were almost as old as the Norwegian independence. The Siamese King arrived on 5 July from Denmark on the yacht “Albion”, which he had rented for his second journey around Europe from the English publisher George Newnes. Although it was a private visit, the first destination was the royal palace in Kristiania (the name of the Norwegian capital Oslo until 1925), where Norway’s young king, Haakon VII, had resided for two years. Many details from the royal visit are known because King Chulalongkorn wrote letters to his 21 years old daughter, Princess Nibha Nobhadol, back home in Thailand. The letters had the form of a travel diary, and have later been published in Thai as well
as in Norwegian languages. The title of the book in Thai is “Klai Baan”, which means “Far from Home”, which indeed he was. In addition to writing about his experiences, the King was also an avid photographer, and took more than 100 photos on his journey through Norway. With him on his journey, the King accompanied by 15-20 people, including one brother, Prince Sommot who was finance minister, and two sons, Prince Boriphat, the war minister and Prince Uruphong who was only a boy at that time. There was also a Dane within the group, admiral Andreas du Plessis de Richelieu, who was instrumental for the planning of the journey to Norway. Richelieu had served the King of Siam for 27 years, but had returned to Denmark at this point in time, and was also a friend of Sam Eyde, one of the founders of Norsk Hydro. From the diaries, we can read interesting observations from the Norwegian community at that time, which was undoubtedly very different from his native Siam. Of the more curious description is how King Haakon opened and closed a gate himself during a walk at the royal estate in Bygdø, a kind of manual labour that royalties in Siam didn’t have to worry about a hundred years ago. More important was King Chulalongkorn’s interest in nature, science and geography and his constant search for ideas that could be used to improve life in Siam. He was very interested in the possibilities of electric power, and visited Notodden to meet Sam Eyde. From Kristiania, the king travelled by train to Trondheim, where he stayed at Hotel Britannia. The journey took 16 hours and the King made many observations concerning Norwegian nature on the way. He was particularly taken by the fact that there wasn’t really any night
in Norway in July, and that people as well as animals seemed to stay up all night long. “I don’t know when they are sleeping”, he writes in his diary. The next day, 8 July, he boarded “Albion” that had sailed around the coast, and continued his voyage towards northern Norway. En route, the ship anchored at many towns and villages, and King Chulalongkorn describes his many encounters with local Norwegians and their way of life. One of the objectives traveling this far north was to see the midnight sun. Unfortunately, the weather was cloudy most of the time, but at Dyrøy, he managed to take photos of the sun, which was visible between the clouds, an occurrence that is described in detail in the diary. In the afternoon on 11 July, “Albion” reached Hammerfest, the northernmost city in the world, with its passengers. After a short stay, they continued to North Cape, and on 12 July, they ascended the North Cape plateau. It was a steep climb, and the King was carried most of the way on an improvised litter, made for the occasion by members of the ship’s crew. Having arrived at the plateau, King Chulalongkorn had his monogram and 1907 engraved onto a stone by the crew. The stone has later been moved indoor, to the little museum that was built there in 1989 in memorial of the royal visit.
more locations along Norway’s western coast, which included Balestrand, Voss and Gudvangen before they arrived in Bergen on 23 July. After sightseeing in Bergen, a city that impressed the King with its international atmosphere, the journey continued to Odda and Stavanger. They traveled by train from Stavanger to Flekkefjord and on “Albion” onwards to Langesund and Brevik. After a short journey by train to Skien, King Chulalongkorn and his fellow travellers boarded “Victoria”, the ship that took them through the Telemark Canal to Norsjø, Heddalsvannet and Notodden.
The voyage continued southwards along the coast of Northern Norway with several stops to observe the nature and to buy souvenirs. They had short stops in Kristiansund and Molde before they reached Geiranger on the evening of 17 July. They continued up in the mountains by horse and open carriage, and stayed at Grotli. The weather was cold with rain and snow, and Norwegian nature showed itself from the most uncomfortable side. But in spite of the weather, King Chulalongkorn describes the journey over the snowy mountains with enthusiasm, describing it as a perfect place for tourism. The mountain trip ended at Visnes at Nordfjord on the evening of 18 July, where “Albion” had anchored in front of Central Hotel, where they stayed overnight.
The visit to Norsk Hydro at Notodden and Rjukan was an important part of the visit to Norway. King Chulalongkorn had heard about the development of hydropower in Norway and the use of electricity for producing artificial fertilizers by fixing nitrogen from air. He saw a great potential for artificial fertilizer for use in Thailand. He had several meetings with the inventors of the process and founders of Norsk Hydro, Sam Eyde and Steinar Birkeland and went to see several of their power stations and factories in the area. A result of this visit was the first order for Norwegian fertilizer to Thailand, a business relationship that is still ongoing, although under the Yara brand.
They continued to do sightseeing in the area, visiting Hotel Alexandra, Loen and the Jostedal Glacier before they returned to the yacht and continued to
This was also the last place in Norway visited by the King of Siam, and when he left onboard “Albion” on 1 August, a large crowd had gathered to wish him a safe journey home. Thai-Norwegian Business Review
Annual General Meeting 2011 by Kristine Hasle photo by Jørgen Udvang Thai-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce’s Annual General Meeting was held 21 March at Sheraton Grande Hotel. The President, Mr. Axel Blom guided the about 30 present members through the chamber’s activities and economy for 2010.
Axel stated that he had hoped to resign from the presidency from this year. He was strongly encouraged by the board to continue his presidency, and agreed to continue one more period in the capacity of president. Axel also called up Mrs. Vibeke Leirvåg to the stage as the vice president of the chamber. She has agreed that she will stand for election and for candidate for president in two years, when Axel Blom’s next period comes to an end. The transition will be started next year when Vibeke will take on more responsibilities in preparation for the role as president in a couple of years. There are several new faces in the Board this year: • Mr. Petter Børre Furberg from dtac was appointed as the new treasurer. He has taken over after Roar Wiik Andreassen, who moved back to Norway in the end of 2010. • Mr. Jørn Unneberg will take over as managing director in Jotun, and replaces Eric Mallace in the board. Eric Mallace is moving to Indonesia this summer. • Bent Kilsund Axelsen from Yara and Niels Henrik Hansen from SAS were elected as new members of the Board.
Board members from 2011, left to right: Erik Svedahl, Gunnar Bertelsen, Kristian Bø, Sverre Golten, Katja Nordgaard, Vibeke Leirvåg, Piyanuj Tarprasatgporn, Petter Børre Furberg, Torpong Tongcharoen, Jon Anders Aas-Haug, Axel Blom. (Not present: Bent Kilsund Axelsen, Niels Henrik Hansen, Dr. Paisan Etitum and Jørn Unneberg).
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• One third of the governors must retire at the Annual General Meeting every year and hence Khun Piyanuj (Lui) from Tilleke & Gibbins resigned and was later re-elected as a member of the Board. • In addition, Mr. Jan Egil Amundsen from DNV, Det Norske Veritas, had requested to leave the board of the Thai-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce. From 2011 the Board of Governors in the Thai-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce will consist of: Axel Blom: President, Jon Anders Aas-Haug (WebOn), Bent Kilsund Axelsen (Yara), Gunnar Bertelsen (Telenor), Maj. Choakdee Dhamasaroj (Nera), Petter Børre Furberg (Dtac), Sverre Golten (A&S Thai Works Co., Ltd.), Niels Henrik Hansen (SAS), Vibeke Lyssand Leirvåg (Felicia), Dr. Paisan Etitum (Thai Transmission Industry), Piyanuj Tarprasatgporn (Tilleke & Gibbins), Torpong Tongcharoen (Norske Skog), Jørn Unneberg (Jotun). Senior advisors to the board: Tove Bjerkan and Dr. Kristian Bø. Observer: Erik Svedahl, Minister Counsellor of the Norwegian Embassy. The president thanked Khun Lui, Jan Egil Amundsen, Roar Wiik Andresassen and Eric Mallace for their contributions to the Board as well as Vibeke Eidsaae Corneliussen as the outgoing executive director of the chamber. Axel also encouraged members to be more active in the chamber and to come forward with ideas and suggestions so that the chamber can deliver added value to the members.
Thai-Norwegian Business Review
My Place: Khao Yai There are many places in Thailand that I love to visit after a long tiring week, says Ms. Piyanuj “Lui” Ratprasatporn. She is partner in Tilleke & Gibbins. My favourite place is Khao Yai which is only a 2-hours drive, and about 200 kilometers from Bangkok.
Khao Yai means big mountain. Why it is named big mountain? Khao Yai lies to cover 4 provinces and 11 districts. When I said Khao Yai, I don’t mean only Khao Yai National Park, which is the magnificent place one have to visit. I also mean the surrounding areas. I was introduced to Khao Yai by friends who have their weekend homes there in 2002. They invited me to visit their place but I hesitated because I preferred beaches to mountains. When I first visited Khao Yai, I immediately fell in love with the place for many reasons. The weather is very nice throughout the year. It is hot during summer time, but the heat will go and the breeze will flow in the evening. Rainy season is interesting in Khao Yai as it rains cats and dogs. Rain in Bangkok just pours from sky to earth, but rain in Khao Yai can be in vertical and horizontal. Winter time (believe me, there are winters in Thailand) is great. The last New Year was cold. The temperature went down to a single digit at night and climbed back to 20-25 degree Celsius during the day. You can drive into Khao Yai National Park and enjoy scenery with variety if trees, plants, animals, birds and insects. There are places to stay and visit in the national park such as waterfalls, cliffs where you can stop and enjoy sunrise, sunset and view of Khao Yai and the surrounding areas. When you drive on the road, it is not uncommon to see animals walk around the green field of with a better luck you may find elephants with their babies follow the parents. There are various accommodation types to suites your financial means in Khao Yai, from five star hotels and fancy resorts & spas, to inexpensive inns, and budget camping facilities. I hope to see you in Khao Yai one of these days. I would like to pass the relay stick to Vibeke Lyssand Leirvåg in Felicia.
Attracting Thai Travellers to Scandinavia by Emma Long photo by Kristine Hasle
n Wednesday 28th January 2011, the Scandinavian Tourist Board (STB) held their annual tourism workshop at the Centara Grand Hotel in Bangkok. The aim of the Workshop was to showcase the tourism attractions of the Scandinavian region to outbound Thai tourism operators and agents and was attended by around twenty tourism operators from Scandinavia who were on hand to present and promote their unique products. The STB Workshop was formally opened by the Danish Ambassador to Thailand, H.E. Mikael Hemniti Winther. In his opening address, the Ambassador stressed the unique features of the Scandinavian region that would entice more Thai travellers such as, crisp clean air, friendly people, unique characteristics such as enviable shopping and the region’s renowned excellence in design and architecture. His Excellency also pointed out that whilst Scandinavia has a high VAT of 25%, there are also very attractive VAT exemption schemes that make shopping very affordable for the discerning traveller. Also making key presentations at the Workshop were Axel Blom, Managing Director of Innovation Norway and each Scandinavian tourism representative. The Airlines of Iceland and SAS, the national air carrier of Norway, Sweden and Denmark were also present. In his opening presentation, Axel Blom, explained that the Asian outbound tourism market is one that is growing steadily, especially in Thailand, thanks to a strong economy and the fact that, despite the global economic downturn, the Baht has enjoyed it’s highest appreciation growth against the Euro in 13 years. This growth has, in turn, led to a decrease in tour prices to Europe by an average of 5-7% which, coupled with the increasingly availability of direct flights to Scandinavia, including the launch of daily direct flights from Bangkok to Oslo by Thai Airways, has meant that outbound Thai travellers to Scandinavia reached approximately 50,000 in 2010. It also meant that in total, the number outbound Thai travellers worldwide reached approximately 5.4 million in 2010 which
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represented an increase of 13% from the previous year. It was also noted that for Thai people, Scandinavia ranked as their third most popular European destination, and Europe was the second most popular worldwide destination choice for Thais. As an emerging market, it was stressed as important for the Scandinavian tour operators to have a broader understanding of the characteristics and preferences of the Thai traveller. The Thai traveller typically travels in an organised tour group and will generally visit 2-3 countries per trip and as most vacations last only around 5-6 days, focussed, interesting and well planned itineraries were vital. As with most Asian countries, the Thais are known around the world for their love of shopping and in particular, shopping for high end branded goods. Thais spend a lot of money when they travel so it was noted that Scandinavian tour operators need to employ relevant promotions and incentives to encourage the tourists to spend, and spend well. As one participating vendor, Christine Low, Passenger Sales Manager for SAS in South East Asia, explained, “we actively encourage business owners in Scandinavia, such as department stores, to provide shopping vouchers as a way of further enticing the Thai traveller to visit those countries. Axel said in he speech that the Thai’s love to shop and we must take advantage of that!” Amongst the vendors present at the workshop were a number of well know Scandinavian hotel chains and tourist organisations. One in particular was the Fjord Norway Tourist Board and it’s Managing Director, Kristian B. Jorgensen. The majestic Fjords of Norway are a world renowned area of outstanding natural beauty and in 2009 it was voted as The Worlds Best Destination by the esteemed National Geographic Traveler Magazine. Kristian travels the world promoting Fjords Norway as the destination of choice for travellers and he spoke to us about the growth of the Thai outbound tourism market and the Asian market as a whole, “The Asian market is very important for us. Last year, we had over 140,000 visitors from Japan and approximately 40-45,000 from China. So Thailand is
a growth market for us. Due to the increase in direct flights and the growth in the local economy, the Thais have more money to spend and their travel will only increase. However, we still have much to learn about the needs of the Thai traveller and how we may best respond to those needs. For example, we don’t have the service levels in Scandinavia that Thais are used to, however, we also don’t want to sell ourselves as something we’re not. It is about teaching each other the differences in our cultures and learning from those experiences.” Alongside Kristian, were representatives of well known hotels based in the Fjords. One in particular that will stand out as a lasting memory for the workshop attendees was the Hotel Ullensvang. Occupying a breathtaking position of the banks of the majestic Hardanger Fjord, the Hotel was been owned and run for 5 generations of the same family. The 5th generation proprietor, Hans Edmund Harris Utne, came to the workshop dressed in the traditional Norwegian costume and delivered a fun and interactive presentation which showcased the beauty of the Hotel and Fjords. His presentation certainly had the desired effect and made this writer want to pack her bags and head for the airport immediately! A further key aim of this years workshop was to encourage the Thai outbound tourism operators to promote travel outside the traditional holiday periods of April and October. Due to the April Songkran holidays and the high number of public holidays in October, Thais seem unwilling to travel outside these periods. This leads to very high traffic during these periods. The aim for tour operators is to promote the benefits of traveling in other times of the year and to highlight some of the unique attractions on offer that they might otherwise miss out on. So, as tourism around the world grows, so too do the demands and expectations of the traveller. More and more travellers are becoming very particular as to where they go whilst always looking for the best available deals. With the tourism operators from both the Thai and Scandinavian regions working closely together, facilitated by workshops such as the one held by the STB, they can ensure a memorable holiday experience when Thailand visits beautiful Scandinavia.
SAS explores new Profile of Travellers to Thailand by Eric Baker
espite the riots in May that garnered worldwide media attention, Thailand actually beat the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s forecast of 15.1 million tourist arrivals in 2010 by 500,000. And of course most of these tourists arrive by plane, so the Business Review decided to sit down with SAS to discuss recent trends in air travel. Niels Henrik Hansen is director and general manager of South East Asia for SAS, and he’s been traveling to Thailand as a visitor since 1975. Over those 36 years, the type of traveller to Thailand has certainly changed. “Back in those days, very few Scandinavians could afford to go to Thailand and it was mainly the few who worked here that brought family and friends over. You often had two layovers in those days as well,” said Mr Hansen. “But you can see how rapidly it’s changed in the past few years. In 2009, we had 800,000 Scandinavians visit Thailand, close to 5% of the population, and I’m sure within a year and a half it will rise to 1 million.” Prices are relatively cheaper now than decades ago, partially due to new carriers entering the market. SAS and Thai Airways International were the first two to brave the Thailand-Scandinavia route, and they were followed by tour operators that booked flights for the islands. “Now Bangkok is a hub and people will catch connecting flights from all over the world and spend a bit of time exploring before moving on,” he said. One trend Mr Hansen has noticed is before Scandinavians would spend two weeks in Thailand with only the obligatory night in Bangkok because of jetlag. “One Night in Bangkok was a famous tune from a Swedish band. Now tourists will spend from five to seven days of their two-week trip in Bangkok because there is plenty to do here. You don’t have to spend your whole time on the beach if you don’t want, and there are so many price levels in Thailand you can do budget one week and luxury the next,” said Mr Hansen. Another change he foresees is the end of the concept of high season and with it perhaps a change in the twotiered pricing system. 36
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“Our high season is now all the time. We’ve had the same load factor (percentage of seats filled) since July. Retirees come out to Thailand and buy condos so they visit whenever they want.” Of course the kingdom’s cheap prices and sunny weather are always going to be draws for Scandinavians, but Mr Hansen also points out the Thai culture attracts Scandinavians. “It’s easy living. Many Scandinavians come here and feel they are treated like kings and queens because they are treated so warmly. The key is to make sure we also respect the Thai culture, and I’m worried we don’t always do that.” He also sees today’s Scandinavian traveller as more savvy. “A couple decades ago news of the red-shirt protests would have made most Scandinavians stay home, but SAS didn’t experience a decrease of passengers during that period because they flew to other cities in Thailand. The next generation of travellers plan their own trip without the help of tours of travel agents, book flights and research online, and travel a lot more. The gap year trip has been popular for a while now.” Obviously no one uses paper tickets to travel anymore, but Mr Hansen remembers in the not too distant past when nobody would chance buying tickets over the internet. “Now even the elderly buy their tickets over the internet. Tour operators do everything online as well. Thailand is the most popular internet fare search in Scandinavia.” SAS is also noticing increasing interest among Thais travelling to Norway. Trips to see the fjords, midnight sun and Svalbard are gaining in popularity, as is environmental business travel to Scandinavia. Thais are interested in Scandinavian developments in hydro, solar and wind power, said Mr Hansen. The environment is becoming a priority in both cultures, with rumours of the European Union introducing a surcharge on flights that are not carbon neutral over European airspace. Mr Hansen said SAS’ Green programme attempts to deal with the environmental concerns of passengers and governments. “We must admit we are a polluting industry. But we have goals and take measurements of the levels we emit to try and limit the impact. The fact is you can never do enough.”
The SAS website allows passengers to determine how much carbon they are going to burn on their flights and provides the option of making a contribution to a nonprofit organisation that will set up wind farms in China and India. The airline also has a fuel-saving policy whereby if the pilot thinks the aircraft cannot make up enough time for passengers to catch their connecting flights, the pilot will reduce speed and use the tail wind. Despite the policy, SAS is Europe’s most punctual airline for two years running. SAS also tries to carry the least amount of fuel necessary and keep the plane tail-heavy in order to use less fuel. “For long-haul aircrafts, I think the next big innovations in efficiency will come in the next five to six years in two areas: biofuel and fuel-reducing engines. Airplanes are already as light as they can be.” The profile of the business class traveller hasn’t changed that much, in that he or she is still a businessperson, but the focus now is on efficiency. “The late night flight from Copenhagen to Bangkok that leaves at 11 pm and arrives in the afternoon is very popular. Businesspeople can sleep on the flight, go to work for a few hours when they arrive, then go back to their hotel and sleep and prepare for the next day. If you take off in the afternoon, you arrive in Bangkok in the morning and have to put in a full day jetlagged. “All travellers also want efficiency when travelling through an airport. Unfortunately Bangkok still has a ways to go as it is not as developed yet. In Copenhagen you can be out on the street in 15 minutes after leaving the plane. At Suvarnabhumi, you can be out in about 25 minutes if you have our priority business class clearance, but otherwise it can be a long wait and transfer passengers have so many choices these days, they’ll just fly out of somewhere else if Bangkok doesn’t fix the problem.” Immigration waiting lines have become a frequent complaint for arriving passengers in Bangkok, and a recent Bangkok Post report noted Airports of Thailand Plc will provide a stipend to the immigration police to increase the number of employees on duty. Mr Hansen feels there is room for both low-cost carriers and traditional full-service airlines such as SAS
in the travel landscape. He just wants people to know what they are buying. “SAS is full service, and we cannot move away from that. We have a core of passengers that want to know what they are getting, and we provide free drinks with your meal on international flights, free checked luggage up to a point, the ability to make seat reservations and no credit card fees. “Some low-cost carriers, the price they advertise is far from the final price. People also pay a premium for service. I was once left behind by a no-frills carrier in Mallorca for six days because they didn’t have the staff at the airport to deal with the problem. “SAS has the largest staff at Suvarnabhumi besides Thai Airways, and we have many customers that live in Singapore, so we are able to meet them at the gate and walk them to our lounge where they can wait for their connection to Singapore.” For full-service airlines, economy class tickets to Europe from Bangkok run from 25,000-45,000 baht, while business class runs from 70,000-140,000, said Mr Hansen. The demand for efficiency is driving technology, and in the near future Mr Hansen believes Bangkok travellers will see bio-metric check-in using a thumb, which some countries in Europe use, luggage tags with a bar code for frequent flyers with one airline that prints out your ticket and a luggage sticker, and even a GPS chip embedded in your ticket that would let airlines know where lost passengers are in the terminal during final calls.
Thai-Norwegian Business Review
Communication Overload, a modern World Phenomenon by Colin Jarvis
fter my last article about communication overload, my editor asked me specifically to consider the problem of e-mail overload. Well, a request from an editor is really a command from on high and I am delighted to attempt to tackle the problem, from which we all suffer, in this article. But first we must be realistic. We cannot control what people outside organisation send us whether it is electronic or through the mail. A spam filter can help that that is about the limit of our abilities. However, we can dramatically reduce the communication overload within our organisation and from our organisation to other organisations and individuals. Much of what is relevant in controlling the dissemination of e-mails also goes for memos and other forms of communication. So, I shall be discussing what you and your organisation can do to reduce the sending of unwanted communication whether electronic or hard copy. Ask yourself; why wouldn’t we want to receive every piece of information that others are keen to send us? Is it not a wonderful way for us to be kept informed? The answer, of course, is no, we do not wish to receive every piece of information because we consider that some of it is irrelevant to us. More to the point, simply reading it and rejecting it takes time which could be more usefully used in other ways. We just want information that we consider to be relevant to us. The big problem these days is that it is so very easy to send an e-mail. In the old days people used to have to type a memo, make copies and then address each one and arrange for their distribution. Nowadays, many people have the attitude that if they are sending an e-mail they may as well send a copy to everybody in their address book just to ensure that everyone is “kept informed”. It is this intellectual laziness and the desire to “keep people informed” that is at the root of the problem. If you read my last article on communication in this magazine I mentioned that this excuse of “keeping people informed” is the most common reason given
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for people communicating within organisations. It is also the most dangerous attitude of mind for people to have if we are trying to keep the information flow to a manageable level. It is a normal human trait for people to believe that what they are doing is very important. Indeed, in organisations we tend to encourage this to ensure that people give their utmost and gain satisfaction from the work they are doing. A by product of this is that many people believe that others in the organisation would wish to know as much as possible about what they’re doing. If we are to manage communication, within our organisations, we must find a way round this without destroying people’s belief in themselves and their value to the organisation. We need to change the culture! We need to be very clear about why it is people communicate within organisations, other than for social interaction. It really is very simple but like many simple things not easy to grasp at once. The only reason why people should communicate within organisations, other than for social interaction, which is very important, is to maintain or modify the recipient’s behaviour. Once this is grasped a much more powerful method of developing communication campaigns, indeed advertising and PR campaigns becomes available. But in this case let us simply talk about this concept as a means of reducing communication overload. No doubt you will say that there are many administrative and process driven aspects of communication which do not fall into this category. I would say that they are all, if they have any value at all, intended to cause people to behave in a certain way or to act in a specific manner. If you can accept this concept then managing communication is much simpler. If anyone communicates with anyone else, for example by sending an e-mail, they must be clear about the modification of the behaviour or action they wish to create in the recipient. Keeping people informed is not an action and has no value in itself. Gaining the acquiescence to some act would be a good reason and may well look like keeping someone informed but the difference is critical. In this case the behavioural modification we would be looking for is acceptance and possibly support for the activity we wish to stimulate in others.
If you can instil this attitude of mind in the people within your organisation, in other words the culture, then you can also set up a variety of systems to control communication overload. For example, if you received some information you feel is not relevant to you; you should then be entitled to ask the sender exactly what actions they required of you as a result of the communication. This should work at any level of the organisation, in other words the chairman should be able to be questioned by the receptionist. People within the organisation will need some explanation and a little bit of training in order for them to embrace this concept easily but, I can promise you, if you follow this path, your organisation will become far more effective for relatively little effort. Having said this is possible that two other problems may occur. The first is that some people may be missed out on certain critical items of communication
and secondly, some people do just like to be informed. They have plenty of time and feel they want to know everything. Both of these problems can be solved by the provision of a simple electronic noticeboard where people may post information. They should be allowed to post anything they like whether they be small ads, notices about forthcoming events or anything else at all as long as itâ€™s not offensive. Providing there is a reasonable search engine then anyone should be able to go to this noticeboard where they will be able to find information that suddenly becomes relevant to them or they may simply browse to get a feeling for what is going on within the organisation. This methodology or process can also be used to control the dissemination of e-mails and other forms of communication, whether aimed at an external or internal audience. It really is that simple.
In our world there are no amateurs.
Spica Co., Ltd. is exclusive importer for Husqvarna in Thailand. Spica is providing the full range of Husqvarna Forest and Garden products as well as Husqvarna Construction Products with complete after sales service for all products.
Spica Co., Ltd.
Pornpailin Business Point, 897 Sukhumvit 77, near Onnuch 17, Suanluang, Bangkok 10250 Tel: 02-742 5200 Fax: 02-742 4418 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.spica-siam.com
New Executive Director by Nadia Willan photo by Jørgen Udvang
ristine Hasle is the New Executive Director at the Thai-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce, having first moved to Bangkok 18 months ago because of her husband’s new job. It was her work as a graphic designer for the ThaiNorwegian Business Review which first introduced her to the Chamber and she officially took over the current role in January. What is your role at the Chamber? Since the Thai-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce is a small organization, I have to juggle all sorts of tasks. It might be surveying the economy, putting together the quarterly magazine as the editor and the layout artist, or attending seminars. I run the Chamber website and a lot of my role involves going to lots of different networking events. There are just two of us here and so far, not one of my days has been the same. What specialist skills/background are you bringing to the job? Since 1997 I have been working in different communications and administrative positions, and have since then gained a broad experience from both international organizations and trade unions. When I came to Thailand 1 ½ years ago, I started to study graphic design. I got to know the Chamber through my job as a graphic designer in ThaiNorwegian Business Review. I have a Bachelor of Business Administration from Norwegian School of Management. How do you support Norwegians who are working here? The Chamber is primarily a network organization where business people can meet. We organize business related events such as networking luncheons and dinners, and seminars to get updated on political life and legal affairs. If somebody has a business problem we can assist them in getting the right help. What initiatives are you looking forward to spearheading in 2011? There is a focus on corporate social responsibility this year. It is becoming increasingly important for businesses to take this onboard. Everybody who comes to Thailand has a sense of some of the cultural differences but there are so many layers which you can only find out from being 40
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on the ground, in the country – what have you experienced? The biggest difference for me is that Thais don’t say I don‘t know – maybe because they don’t want to disappoint. I haven’t learnt a lot of Thai but it is easy to feel misunderstood in this country. And I must admit I haven’t found it easy to make Thai friends. Foreigners coming to Norway say the same thing about the Norwegians though. What do you absolutely love about Thailand? I absolutely love the food. I love the streets, and the feeling of being in the Far East. I love that there are so many destinations that are close, such as amazing beaches and other cities in South East Asia. How have your family adjusted to living in Bangkok? I have two daughters aged two and four years old. They go to a small international school with mostly Thai children. Sometimes I feel like I have two Thai children because they have adjusted so well into the Thai culture. They like Thai food and dislike Norwegian food! What has been the highlight of your stay here so far – on a personal level and professional? Chiang Mai at Songkran was definitely a highlight. On a professional level, I was very proud when I finished my first magazine. And of course getting this job. What do you miss about Norway or do you spend part of your work there too? I miss pavements, and outdoor cafes where you can sit down and look at people pass by. Except from the parks, there aren’t a lot of possibilities to stroll around. And of course I miss my family and friends at home in Norway. But Thailand is so popular that I have many visitors. I have to say I don’t miss the long winters! What are your plans for Songkran and the Thai New Year? Last year, I went to Chiang Mai with my family. It was a bit overwhelming for my then 1 ½ year old baby. She was not spared the water splashing at all. I think I’d like to do something similar this year because it was a real adventure.
New Law Addresses Harassment by Creditors by Kasamesunt Teerasitsathaporn Attorney-at-law at Tilleke & Gibbins
An earlier version of this article was published in the Bangkok Post on 17 December, 2010.
n September 2010, consumers and consumer activists welcomed the passage of a new law aimed at controlling the behavior of creditors during the collections process. The new law, known as the Demand for Payment of Debt with Fairness Act (DPDF Act), represents a major effort to control the ongoing problem of harassment of debtors by protecting their rights. The main objective of the DPDF Act was to address the concerns of consumers and consumer advocacy groups over the increasingly aggressive tactics employed by creditors in the loan and credit card businesses. With no specific statute to control or otherwise limit the behavior of creditors, there was little that could be done to protect the rights of debtors. Further, previous Bank of Thailand regulations and procedures addressing the issue of debt collections for financial institutions did not extend to non-financial institutions and collection companies, leaving few effective tools for curbing the harassment of debtors. Limitations on Debt Collectors The DPDF Act places limits on unfairness in collections by banning aggressive and/or threatening actions against debtors. Forbidden creditor actions include the making of numerous telephone calls to debtors in a single day or calling at night, and the sending of inappropriate or harassing written communications to a debtor’s place of work. In addition, it is forbidden for a creditor or his or her agents to contact persons unrelated to the debt or to act in any way that is intended to discredit the reputation of the debtor. Specifically, the DPDF Act seeks to control the behavior of all persons authorized to demand payment of debts (“Debt Collectors”) by strictly controlling their behavior in the following ways: 42
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1. Debt Collectors may not contact any person who is not a debtor, except to ask for a debtor’s contact information. 2. Debt Collectors may not threaten, take aggressive action, or commit affronts against a debtor or against any other person in furtherance of their debt collection efforts. 3. Debt Collectors may not disclose confidential information related to the debt or the debtor to any third person when conducting collection activities. There may be a limited number of exceptions, however, for information shared with counsel or related parties in the course of pre-litigation or litigation efforts. 4. Debt Collectors may neither act in an excessive manner nor make repeated telephone calls in a single day to the debtor or to a person unrelated to the debt. 5. Debt Collectors may not act in any way to harass or annoy the debtor or any person unrelated to the debt. 6. Debt Collectors may not make false or misleading statements in demand for payment of debt. For example, they may not falsely deceive a debtor into believing they represent the court, a law firm, or a government body seeking recovery of assets. 7. Debt Collectors may not make unfair demands for payment, such as charging unreasonable fees and expenses. 8. Debt Collectors may not contact the debtor by post, facsimile, or other means using language or symbols that clearly identify the communication as a debt collection notice. 9. Debt Collectors may not call or otherwise communicate with a debtor during the hours of 8.00 p.m. to 8.00 a.m. on weekdays and 6.00 p.m. to 8.00 a.m. on weekends. Scope of Protection These efforts go a long way toward changing the historically unbalanced landscape and providing a number of personal privacy protections to consumers. However, the scope of this protection has been limited, whether by accident or design, in a number of ways, including the following.
First, the DPDF Act limits “debts” to only those related to credit. The Act further defines “credit” as loans, buying bills of exchanges, buying instruments, credit card services, hire purchases, leasing to individual persons, and other types of business transactions that may be announced from time to time. This limiting language may result in many other debt classifications, such as sales and purchases and non-individual leases, being excluded from protection. Second, the DPDF Act states that the creditor must be a juristic person only. If the creditor is an individual, the debtor is not afforded protection. This could effectively mean that the Act cannot be used to control the inappropriate behavior of individual creditors or their agents.
Third, the DPDF Act similarly states that the debtor must be an individual person only. Therefore, a company debtor will not receive protection under the Act. In conclusion, the drafters of the DPDF Act engaged in an honest effort to address creditor harassment of debtors. Unfortunately, the results of their efforts in the form of the DPDF Act leave many creditor abuses untouched or inadequately punished. Until such time that the Act can be redrafted to resolve these inadequacies, debtors must carefully assess their rights, the potential for harassment, and the protections under the DPDF Act.
Skanem is a leading producer of self adhesive labels with 12 labelling plants in 8 countries in Europe and Asia. Skanem Bangkok opened June 2007 and is Skanem’s first establishment in South-East Asia.
Skanem Bangkok Co. Ltd. Amata Nakorn Industrial Estate 700/247 Moo 1 Bankao, Panthong Chonburi 20160 Thailand Tel.: +66 (0) 38 465 315-19 Fax.: +66 (0) 38 465 320-21 www.skanem.com
Melvær&Lien The Idea Entrepreneur Photo: Tom Haga
SMARTER LABELLING SOLUTIONS
How can Companies grow their Business through CSR? text and photo by Kristine Hasle 19 January the Royal Norwegian Embassy in co-operation with Innovation Norway and ThaiNorwegian Chamber of Commerce arranged a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) seminar. The theme of this seminar was how companies can grow their business through CSR. The CSR seminar was sponsored by Jotun, Norske Skog, Telenor and Yara. The speakers at the seminar came from the private sector as well as from the Norwegian and Thai Governments. The participants were both from small businesses and multinational enterprises, some with years of experience doing business in Thailand, and some who were trying to get into the Thai market. The seminar gave the participants a good opportunity to get updated on what is happening within CSR. The Norwegian Ambassador, Katja Nordgaard, opened the seminar, and emphasised the importance to see all parts of CSR, such as inadequate protection of human rights, unacceptable working conditions, child labour, environmentally harmful activities and corruption. Mr. Sten Anders Berge, Deputy Director General and Head of Section for Economic and Commercial Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs pointed out that CSR becomes increasingly important in relation to the Norwegian Government’s expectations to the private sector. In 2009 the Norwegian Government published the Whitepaper “Corporate Social Responsibility in a Global Economy”. Mr. Berge emphasized that CSR is voluntarily, and that it is good for business. He stressed the fact that the government’s position paperwas initiated in cooperation with the Norwegian Business Committee, NHO, and it is not something the government is trying to force the private sector to adapt. The Norwegian government’s position is that CSR involves companies integrating social and environmental concerns into their day-to-day operations, as well as into their dealings with stakeholders. CSR is what companies do on a voluntary basis beyond complying with existing legislation and rules in the country in which they are operating. 44
Thai-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce
Telenor as a good example With 90 million subscribers and 20,000 employees in Asia, Telenor has a significant footprint in the Asian market. With the access to the market and its customers, Telenor´s ambition is to become the leading responsible global mobile company, and Telenor has decided to integrate corporate responsibility into its core business. Hilde Tonne, Deputy Head of Telenor Asia, showed many good examples of how Telenor is implementing CSR into their business, both in Norway, in the European market and in the Asian market. She stressed that CSR is more than just philantropy and windowdressing. Telenor, as one of the world´s largest mobile operators, has learned over the years that by integrating CSR in its business strategy can create values, mitigate risk, and sharpen its competive edge. “If you look upon corporate responsibility not as philanthropy or something you are forced to do but rather as an opportunity to create value and share that value with the society, you will actually win. This is the basis of how we are thinking in the Telenor group,” said Hilde. After a media crisis in Bangladesh in 2008, Telenor realised the need for corporate responsibility, when its tower suppliers in Bangladesh became the target of media attacks over unacceptable working condition. After the incident, Telenor introduced its first Health, Safety, Security and Environment (HSSE) policy, the group-wide supplier conduct principles, to ensure that suppliers and their subcontractors meet the requirements relating to working conditions, human’s rights and environmental issues. Telenor also monitors how the suppliers comply with their obligations by cooperating with them, and by visiting their premises. One of the examples Ms. Tonne gave at the seminar was how Telenor is creating alternatives to child labour by combining skills training, non-formal education and safe source of income for working children. In Bangladesh, Telenor is cooperating with UNICEF and 12,000 children and 2,400 families are reached each year. Another example is that Telenor is cooperating with Save the Children and the police to make a child sexual abuse filter to block access to illegal images of children. In this work they are stopping 15,000 illegal
hits every day. This service is already launched in Bangladesh. Critisism Mr. Arnfinn Jacobsen, technical adviser at IndoPacific Edelman had a slightly different approach to CSR, and was looking at CSR from a more practical point of view. He said that the social responsibility of business is to increase profits. He was asking how the “official Norway” sees a company with a “social responsibility”? If the consequence of CSR is that it raises the price of a product, the company is spending the customer’s money and if CSR lowers employee wages, the company is spending employee’s money. He stated that companies should limit themselves to conform to society’s laws and ethical customs. He was also looking at CSR trends. He said that collaboration is in, especially with NGOs, and that companies usually try to pick partners who are relevant for their business. Straight forward cash donations are less important. He sees the reality that good CSR programs which help a company’s business are still few and far between, even though there are good examples. Getting CSR right The seminar was summarised with a hands-on workshop lead by Egil Hagen of Innovation Norway. The workshop was aimed at Norwegian related companies in Thailand. The workshop focused on how companies can meet the Norwegian Government’s expectations of the private sector in terms of exercising social responsibility. Interesting issues were brought up, such as how to handle corruption. On the one side of the table, there were representatives from the Norwegian Government who have issued the whitepaper on CSR. On the other side of the table, were representatives from different businesses in Thailand with years of experiences, who know what challenges a business can meet when working in a foreign market. How can we use this seminar in the future? The workshop on CSR discussed themes like corruption, human rights, climate, environment, child labour. All very important issues in themselves, and
Norwegian companies should do all they can to be fully compliant on these issues, even though these are not necessarily issues companies can or should build their CSR programs around. Questions that can be addressed are: “How develop a CSR program in Thailand/South East Asia?” What CSR can be? Can we ask the participants from business what CSR means to them? “What are others doing?” The Thai-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with Innovation Norway and the Royal Embassy will continue discussions on how together to formulate a common CSR agenda relevant to Thailand/Norwegian related businesses.
A matter of trust The Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) has published a guide to corporate responsibility – A matter of trust. The brochure tries to explain what corporate responsibility is, and gives us a good introduction to the theme. The brochure shows many good handson examples of how CSR can be done in the real life, through specific businesses in Norway and elsewhere in the world. Read more: www.nho.no/samfunnsansvar
Thailand’sEconomy EconomyatataaGlance Glance Thailand’s
MY TH CN ID PH VN IN LA KH MM
Thai Consumer Price Index
Thai GDP Growth (%) 14.0 12.0 10.0 8.0 6.0 4.0 2.0 0.0 -2.0 -4.0
6 5 4 3 2 1 0 -1 -2
2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011p
US NO SG KE TW
Stock Exchange Index (SET)
Exchange Rates 7.00
1,100 1,000 900 800 700 600 500 400
6.00 5.50 5.00 4.50
Manufacturing Index 2000=100 220
Bilateral trade 2010 Import 1,175 (847) MNOK Export 2,284 (1,950) MNOK
Thai-Norwegian Business Review
2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Thai-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce
Basic Figures: BOI. Comparisons: Wikipedia. GDP/Capita and Thai Population: Wikipedia. Thai GDP and CPI: Bank of Thailand. Quarterly GDP: NESDB. SET: Stock Exchange of Thailand. Exchange Rate THB/NOK: x-rates.com. Manufacturing Production Index: Thailand’s Ministry of Commerce. Bilateral Trade: Statistics Norway. Petrol and BigMac prices as of 15 March 2011
6.91 13.02 12.95 40.00
Other bits and pieces Petrol/litre (95 E10) NOK: TH Petrol/litre (95 Octane) NOK: NO McDonald BigMac price NOK: TH McDonald BigMac price NOK: NO
67.0 mill 4.9 mill 9,100,000 586,860 71/75 78/82
Demographics Population TH: Population NO: Population Bangkok: Population Oslo: Life expectancy M/F TH: Life expectancy M/F NO:
0801 0804 0807 0810 0901 0904 0907 0910 1001 1004 1007 1010 1101
Thai Population 2010
80+ 70-74 60-64 50-54 40-44 30-34 20-24 10-14 0-4
Aug10 Sep10 Oct10 Nov10 Dec10 Jan11
Geography Geographic Area: TH 514,000 sq. km Geographic Area NO: 385,199 sq. km Highest peak TH: Doi Inthanon 2,565 m Highest peak NO: Galdhøpiggen 2,469 m Inland water areas TH: 2,230 km Inland water areas NO: 16,360 km Coastline TH: 3,219 km Coastline NO: 25,148 km
Top 10 Exports 2010 %/value USD bill. EDP equipment 9.6%/18.8 Cars and automotive 9.0%/17.7 Precious stones/jewellery 6.0%/11.7 Electronic integrated circuits 4.1%/8.0 Rubber 4.0%/7.9 Refined fuels 3.6%/7.0 Rubber products 3.3%/6.4 Polymers etc. 3.3%/6.3 Chemical products 3.0%/5.8 Rice 2.7%/5.3
10-30% 10-15% 7% 0-37%
Corporate income Tax Withholding Tax Value Added Tax Personal income Tax
0501 0507 0601 0607 0701 0707 0801 0807 0901 0907 1001 1007 1101
Export Growth 2009 y-o-y -14% Export Growth 2010 projected 27% Trade Balance (2009) USD 19.4 bill Current Account Bal. (2009) USD 21.9 bill International Reserves (2009) USD 138.4 bill Minimum wage (Bangkok) Baht 215/day
Aug10 Sep10 Oct10 Nov10 Dec10 Jan11
Basic Figures Thailand (2010)
Not just pain relief, but a new life ahead Julian Dindo, a financial expert from Finland working with Reuters in Thailand, developed a hernia on one of the discs in his neck. Today he is fully recovered after an operation at the BNH Hospital Spine Centre. Dr. Wicharn Yingsakmonkol, head of the Spine Centre, performed a total disc replacement operation on Mr. Dindo.
Shortly after Julian Dindo and his wife
operation’, where a disc is cut out and a
Susanna moved to Thailand, Julian started
piece of replacement bone graft from the
feeling a strange numbness and pain in his
patient’s hip is put in place before the joint
neck and shoulder. After several
is fused stiff and immovable with a plate
unsuccessful attempts to reduce the pain,
linking the two bones. After the operation
Julian was referred to BNH Hospital, one of
the pain subsides, but the joint is stiff so
the leading international hospitals in
inevitably there is a restriction in movement.
Thailand, which is located in the Sathorn-
Also after some years, the adjoining discs
Convent Road area of Bangkok.
often get damaged by the additional strain
“When Julian came to us he had already
put on them by the stiffened joint. The latest
received a number of treatments for his
method is called ‘Total Artificial Disc
neck pain and the pain in his arm and
Replacement’. The damaged disc is
shoulder,” Dr. Wicharn, head of the BNH
replaced by an artificial flexible joint. After
Spine Center, recalls. “Apart from the pain,
this operation, not only has the pain gone
he was suffering from weakness in his arm
away but flexibility of movement is restored
and shoulder with obvious withered muscles
nearly fully to the level it was before the
Julian’s operation was quite brief, lasting only one and a half
in the right arm.” Dr. Wicharn discovered
hours. The doctors enter from the side of the neck and replaced
that the problem was a hernia on two of the
The joint can move after the operation and
the two herniated discs with the new flexible joints. The minimal
discs in his neck. The herniated discs put
the patient can start Physiotherapy right
intrusion has only left a small scar on his neck, which should fade
pressure on the nerves, which caused the
away. Disc replacement is a viable option
in time. Julian’s recovery was immediate. “The next morning it felt
pain and other symptoms in the related arm
for the neck, the lower back area or the
strange. I was able to move my neck freely without pain,” Julian
lumbar spine. The base of the artificial disc
recalls. “I wore a soft collar for one week after the operation. That
is made of a material that the patient’s bone
Dr. Wicharn Yingsakmongkol and Julian Dindo (above) Spine Specialist Team (below)
The new technique
will grow into within six months, becoming
“One month after the operation I was
“Usually, there is more than one solution for
an integrated part of the disc prosthesis.
swimming and running. Dr Wicharn has
a problem. The biggest difference between
Dr. Wicharn is using this method for more
only advised me to refrain from doing
methods of treatment is not only pain relief,
than two years and is an internationally
yoga, but then I didn’t do yoga before,”
but life afterwards” Dr Wicharn explains.
recognized expert and pioneer of this type
“Traditional operation, which have been
of surgery in Thailand.
practiced for many years, is the ‘fusion
BNH HOSPITALL (Sathorn - Convent) 9/1 Convent Rd., Silom, Bangkok 10 10500 0500
02-686-2700 Fax. 02-632-0579
www.BNHhospital.com E-mail: info@BNHhospital.com
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Fact & Figures
Year Established: Norway 1864, Thailand 1988 Number of Employees : Worldwide 8,700
Det Norske Veritas (Thailand) Co., Ltd.:
No. 1, MD Tower, 9th Floor, Room A, Soi Bangna-Trad 25, Bangna, Bangkok 10260 Tel : +66 2 3618288-90 Fax: +66 2 3618291
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An employer of thousands. Built around equality, opportunity and people like us. At Telenor Group, we believe that being at the forefront of telecommunications isn’t just about technology. It’s about people. And whether those people are customers or employees, we always ask ourselves this simple question; ‘does this fulfill the needs of people?’ That’s why we have invested resources and time in developing new ways of working, creating new structures that dismantle the barriers and hierarchies of the past and replace them with freedom, openness and opportunity. We know that as we have grown internationally, our employees remain our most precious asset and we aim to help them realize and fulfill their ambitions and potential as individuals and as groups. Wherever they are based. To find out more about how the Telenor Group works hard at being ‘built around people,’ please visit www.telenor.com
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Telenor Group is a global provider of high quality telecom services with operations in 13 markets around the world. To find out more about how we put people at the heart of our business, visit www.telenor.com Telenor Group has telecom operations in these countries: Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Hungary, Montenegro, Serbia, Ukraine, Russia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, India.
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