At a meeting in Bangkok yesterday evening chaired by the new Minister of Finance, Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, and attended by officials from both the Customs and Revenue departments, it was finally confirmed that foreign-flagged visiting superyachts will from now on be welcome to spend the winter seasons in Thai waters and offer their yachts for charter there without having to pay VAT on the value of the vessel.
The meeting marked the culmination of a six-year campaign to bring this all-important change in the local regulations, and thus finally enable a new “third destination” for the global fleet and a new “Superyacht Tourism“ industry to boost Thailand’s pandemic-challenged tourism economy.
The campaign started in earnest in 2015 when the then Minister of Transport was tasked by the Prime Minister with launching Thailand’s own Yacht Show. The show was conceived as a platform to promote the Kingdom as the Marina Hub of Asia and develop an important new yachting industry bringing in significant foreign investment for the benefit of all Thai people.
Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, then Minister of Tourism and Sport, became a real champion for the cause, and her unflagging belief in this opportunity remains to this day, despite her having left politics two years ago. Minister Arkhom was the incumbent Minister of Transport who in 2016 signed the government decree authorising the so-called “superyacht charter license”, the first three of which were presented to foreign superyacht owners at a ceremony announcing the launch of the new Thailand Yacht Show. It has taken until today to finally agree on the official tax regulations surrounding this initiative, but it could not have come at a better time when Thailand desperately needs a new wave of high quality, high-spending tourists to arrive when we finally see the end of the pandemic – hopefully in time for next season.
The whole of the Thai yachting industry has worked together to finally arrive at this point, and TYBA Chairman Matthew Na Nagara and his team have been instrumental in ensuring that enough information and political persuasion has been given to all government departments and administrative organisations to push the initiative to a conclusion.
The Thailand Yacht Show itself will now become the centrepiece of a much wider Festival of Luxury Tourism, encompassing a showcase of private aviation at the new Phuket Private Jet Terminal, an international classic car Concours d’Elegance; a Wellness & Anti-Ageing Expo; a Collectible Art Show and many other luxury sectors that will attract increasing numbers of UHNW visitors to the beautiful island of Phuket over the next 10 post-covid years.
Whilst the headline news is a huge boost for the superyacht industry, bringing as it will new business for all parts of the ASEAN region right through to Australia and New Zealand, there will also be a massive “trickle-down” effect into every corner of the leisure boating industry and on-water lifestyle industries throughout the whole of Asia.
In light of the recent outbreak of Covid-19 infections in Thailand and the latest announcement of restrictions on inter-provincial travel – as of yesterday, visitors to Phuket from Bangkok and other key regions now have to go into 14 days of quarantine on arrival – we regretfully have to announce the postponement of the 2021 Thailand Yacht Show, currently scheduled from 11th – 14th February, until later in the year.
CEO Andy Treadwell said today, “We have discussed the options with our principal stakeholders, and all agree that we have no choice in the matter. With only six weeks to go to show opening, and travel restrictions seeming likely to become more widely enforced over the next few weeks, it would simply be irresponsible to continue with plans to stage the show over the Chinese New Year period next month, even if it were allowed. Despite the financial hardships this will cause for our suppliers and our exhibitors, as well as for ourselves, we are in full agreement with the government’s safety measures, and we will just have to wait for the situation to ease.
“This is particularly galling for us, coming as it does in the wake of last year’s postponements of the Singapore and Hong Kong Yacht Shows, and after all the efforts we have made to team up with Motor Expo in Bangkok and CP Group’s Siam Land with its brand new private jet terminal in Phuket, as well as other partners who will all help bring potential buyers and charterers to the Show.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Thailand has been one of the most successful countries in managing the protection and recovery of its population. Despite the drastic effect this has had on tourism, one of its most important sources of income – normally around 20% of their GDP, and considerably higher in Phuket – most observers respect and admire the government’s resolute adherence to strict containment measures. Economic recovery will be all the more certain in a tourism destination that can be seen to be permanently on guard to keep itself as safe as possible at all times.
Treadwell continued: “Our efforts to promote Thailand as Asia’s principal yachting hub and the new destination-in-waiting for ultra-high-spending global superyacht tourists, for which the government-initiated Thailand Yacht Show is the main annual marketing platform, will be rewarded in the end. Just last week, we had a meeting with the Thai Customs Department, who are now fully behind the project to allow foreign-flagged superyachts to charter in Thai waters.
“Once the remaining tax issues are resolved (soon now we hope!), more and more of them will want to come, stay the whole season, and spend their money here. This will be fantastic, not just for the superyacht agents, charter brokers, marina owners and all the service suppliers down the line, but for the whole of the industry – the “trickle-down” effect to all sectors of the leisure boating and hospitality industries will exponentially increase the positive economic impact. And the biggest beneficiary of all will be the local communities here in Thailand – the people who need it most. So we will continue to work hard to make this happen – as soon as we can make it happen safely.”
New dates for the show will be announced as soon as possible, likely in either June/July, or November.
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Thailand plans to rebrand tourism in the post-coronavirus era to “Amazing Trusted Thailand”, aimed at selective markets and destinations in the country that can guarantee health and safety standards for both tourists and locals – such as yachting and boating – according to a recent article in the Bangkok Post.
There is no more high-quality, high-spending, intrinsically safe and healthy tourism sector than yachting – especially superyacht tourism. This is a tourism sector that the Thailand Yacht Show has been promoting, at the request of the government, for the last 5 years, and fits exactly with the TAT’s new initiative and could quickly help bring prosperity back.
“We estimate international markets will return in October, so all related agencies are working on a proper recovery plan that won’t risk a second wave of the pandemic after our proven record of effective virus control during the first wave,” said Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha suggested we use this opportunity to rebrand Thai tourism as a quality destination where we care more about trust than carrying capacity.
He said the makeover features three combinations of new and old tourism concepts, including an effective and recognised public health system, unique and outstanding gastronomy and culture, and natural beauty and Thai people.
With Thailand looking to exit lockdown this month, TAT is preparing a strategy for the second stage — matching foreign tourists from countries that were removed from the list of “Disease-Infected Zones for Covid-19” with select provinces that never reported infections, or provinces that have not had a new case in the past 28 days.
The agency is conducting surveys nationwide, seeking consensus from communities to kick-start tourism activities.
“Our plan to open up for international tourists will not be the same as the plan for locals. In the near future, a discussion between Thailand and targeted countries will be necessary before any exchange of tourists. Both Thais and other countries are worried about the pandemic, as they don’t want to send their citizens here and have them bring the virus back home,” said Mr Yuthasak.
Islands such as Phuket or Samui may be the first batch of destinations to welcome international tourists as their geography allows authorities to more easily control and keep track of tourists.
He said the agency also plans to introduce the International Tourists Bridge project, adapted from the Georgia tourism model, which aims at attracting high-end foreign tourists from the European cluster.
Thailand is looking at high spenders within the region, such as Singapore, China and Vietnam, to visit designated areas in Thailand under a quota.
These tourists can visit selected destinations without being subjected to 14-day quarantine measures, but they have to provide health certification, fit-to-fly certificates and buy health insurance before visiting Thailand, while rapid testing will be available upon arrival.
The agency will provide tourism safety standards for the Safety and Health Administration at every touch point and track digital platforms to manage the flow of tourists.
Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said the ministry plans to discuss the tourism rehabilitation plan with Gen Prayut this week and propose the plan to the cabinet meeting next week.
The plan requires 10-20 billion baht from the 400-billion-baht budget used for economic rehabilitation projects after the outbreak.
In a meeting on Monday between the Tourism and Sports Ministry and chairman of the TAT board, Thosaporn Sirisumphand, the TAT was approved to revise this year’s foreign arrivals target to 14-16 million. The outlook for domestic trips was projected at 100 million, with total revenue of 1.23 trillion baht.
This article first appeared in the Bangkokpost hereread more