Thursday, 31 December 2020

Arrival in Thailand - The New Normal

Thailand is now allowing tourists from abroad back.
What's the process like for entering the country?

We're going to walk you through it – all the steps based on the new normal from the airport to life in the Alternative State Quarantine. 

For Thailand updates please visit TAT Newsroom




S Hotels & Resorts gears up for accelerated growth

S Hotels & Resorts Public Company Limited is gearing up for a defining year in 2021, as it completes a series of milestone rebrands, smart refurbishments and expansion projects that keeps the company firmly on track to reach its targets.

These objectives are aligned with six goals S Hotels & Resorts is committed to from the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals initiative through actions concerning sustainable consumption, marine debris pollution, low carbon, children knowledge and conservation programme, green procurement and local sourcing, local gastronomy and human rights.

At the heart of S Hotels & Resorts’ growth strategy are its new lifestyle brands: SAii, a fun and free-spirited upper-upscale concept for experience-seeking travellers, and nābor, an all-new “luxury-midscale” brand designed for smart explorers with digitally-driven lives. With at least six new and repositioned properties scheduled to be added in the next 12 months, 2021 will play a pivotal role in the company’s five-year development strategy, through which it plans to double its global portfolio from 39 hotels totalling 4,647 rooms today, to 82 properties with 9,000 keys by 2025.

SAii, which derives from the Thai word for “sand”, was first unveiled in 2019 with the opening of SAii Lagoon Maldives, the idyllic island resort at CROSSROADS Maldives, Singha Estate’s ground-breaking integrated destination in the Indian Ocean. S Hotels & Resorts is excited to announce the next two SAii resorts in Thailand in the first quarter of 2021.

SAii Laguna Phuket is nestled in the heart of Thailand’s premier resort community, Laguna Phuket, located directly on the beach. Under the SAii brand, guests can look forward to enhanced facilities, including a new event hall, a reimagined seafront restaurant, an improved beach bar and more. With its bright and spacious rooms and suites, many of which overlook Bangtao Beach and the Andaman Sea, plus plenty of cultural, culinary and family activities, including one of Phuket’s longest water slides, this resort is perfect for light-hearted couples, families and groups of friends, as well as one-of-a-kind events and weddings.

SAii Phi Phi Island Village is an enchanting, eco-friendly retreat nestled in 70 acres of beautiful beachfront land on Thailand’s Koh Phi Phi Don. Currently known as Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort, it will undergo an extensive refurbishment and repositioning before reopening under the SAii brand. The resort’s inviting lobby, freeform pool, soothing spa and sea-facing restaurants are among the elements being upgraded, along with its premium room category, the Hillside Pool Villas, which overlook the sea. Like its sister property in the Maldives, SAii Phi Phi Island Village encourages eco-conscious travellers to preserve the environment with offshore excursions and regular activities at its onsite Marine Discovery Centre.

Both new SAii resorts will showcase innovative wellness and F&B concepts, including Mr Tomyam, Miss Olive Oyl and Lèn Be Well. Mr Tomyam, which made its debut at SAii Lagoon Maldives, focuses on Thai-inspired dishes with live kitchens and alfresco seating; while Miss Olive Oyl, is a vibrant Mediterranean-style seafood grill and bar. Lèn Be Well meanwhile, promises a personalised approach to wellbeing through five core pillars: Romance, Relax, Culture, Adventure and Family. Blending bespoke leisure activities, body treatments, gastronomic offerings and more, this customised concept is already delighting guests at Santiburi Koh Samui, which will focus on health and wellness. Guests can expect an enhanced selection of spa journeys, immersive excursions and culinary specials such as floating breakfast in the pool villas.

New for 2021, S Hotels & Resorts is excited to unveil nābor (pronounced “neighbour”), an alternative collection of locally-inspired “luxury-midscale” resorts and hotels. nābor encourages millennial-minded travellers to get “out there” and discover their destination whether it is for nature lovers, beach seekers and urbanites. The aim is to reveal the authentic vibe of each locale. nābor will make its debut in April 2021 with its first property in Bophut, Koh Samui, a beautiful and hot instagrammable beachfront retreat in the northeast corner of Thailand’s “Coconut Island”.

Like all future nābor hotels, this repositioned resort will put the guest in control of their stay, with an integrated digital platform to enhance guests’ experience, booking and journey during their stay. Curious explorers will be able to get under the skin of their destination with insightful online “nāborhood” guides and activities that can be pre-booked by mobile. Guests will be invited to mix their own bathroom amenities in the M.I.Y Aroma Lab workshop, or purchase pre-mixed scents from the M.I.Y vending machine to take home as a fragrant reminder of their vacation. In total, S Hotels & Resorts plans to open six nābor hotels and resorts in 2021, with other potential destinations likely to include major Thai tourism centres and key leisure markets in Asia.

“2021 will be a pivotal year for S Hotels & Resorts, as we accelerate the expansion of our lifestyle brands,” said Dirk De Cuyper, Chief Executive Officer, S Hotels & Resorts. “Extensive upgrades to our resorts in Thailand have laid the foundations for our rebrandings, and we are very excited to be introducing our original concepts to stunning locations across Asia. Luxury is no longer defined by unnecessary bells and whistles; today’s savvy travellers demand seamless stays, immersive experiences and the ability to uncover the essence of their locale. With SAii and nābor, we will create deeply personal journeys in a choice of highly-desirable destinations. We look forward to bringing our intuitive and inviting brands to all guests next year and beyond.”

At present, S Hotels & Resorts’ global collection comprises 39 hotels and resorts in Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean and the UK - totalling 4,647 keys. The company is aiming to double its portfolio over the next five years, driven by a mix of mergers and acquisitions, resort purchases and hotel management agreements, and focusing on the roll-out of SAii and nābor hotels across in Asia Pacific and the Indian Ocean.

Despite the global downturn, 2020 has been a successful year for S Hotels & Resorts as it won a series of major awards for the quality of its hotels and its environmental efforts. These include a corporate award for Green Leadership in the Asia Responsible Enterprise Awards, Santiburi Koh Samui signing UNESCO’s Sustainable Tourism Pledge and Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort who won the Marine and Nature category for its Marine Discovery Centre out of over 600 Thai tourism businesses nominated in the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s 12th annual Responsible Thailand Awards in the UK, recognising Thailand’s champions of sustainable tourism.

Santiburi Koh Samui, Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort, Hard Rock Hotel Maldives and SAii Lagoon Maldives also achieved TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards, while Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort and Hard Rock Hotel Maldives were honoured in the Conde Nast Readers’ Choice Awards. Hard Rock Hotel Maldives and SAii Lagoon Maldives both featured in the World Luxury Hotel Awards, and SAii Lagoon Maldives was a winner in the World MICE Awards.


Travelers pampering themselves with more upscale stays to ring in the New Year

After almost a year of restricted travel, travelers are indulging in more high-end stays this New Year’s Eve. According to booking data from digital travel platform Agoda, 4 to 5-star hotels are the accommodation of choice to ring in 2021 globally, pushing 1 to 3.5-star hotels down to second place this year, as compared to New Year’s Eve 2019.

With the exception of Taiwan, Thailand and the United States (US) which favored 1 to 3.5-star hotels as their preference, travelers from the other markets are aligned with the global trend. Korean and Singaporean travelers have maintained their desire for 4 to 5-star hotels as the top choice this New Year’s Eve.

This year, travelers are also looking to get away from it all to explore more diverse destinations than in 2019. Beach destinations and coastal cities like Miami Beach (US), Langkawi (Malaysia), Quy Nhon (Vietnam), Yeosu-si (Korea), as well as places known for their natural beauty such as Cameron Highlands (Malaysia), Hua Lien (Taiwan), Laguna (Philippines) and Sapa (Vietnam) climbed the ranks to top 10 domestic destinations in respective markets for staycations this New Year’s Eve.

“While 2020 might have upended many travelers’ plans, Agoda’s data that 4 to 5-star hotels are most popular among New Year’s Eve bookings this year shows us that there’s great desire among travelers to pamper themselves and optimistically usher in the New Year in style. We are heartened that travelers are not letting the pandemic dampen their travel spirits, and are also spending the New Year exploring domestic destinations less traveled, supporting local tourism communities in those areas,” said Errol Cooke, Vice President of Partner Services at Agoda.

Thai travelers are staying at 1 to 3.5-star hotels, followed by 4 to 5-star hotels and non-hotel accommodation, similar to their preferences in 2019. Bangkok, beach town Pattaya and Chiang Mai with ancient temples and picturesque mountains continue to dominate Thai travelers’ domestic list. Notably Kanchanaburi, Krabi and Phuket have each moved up to two spots this year.

Top 10 Domestic Destinations


New Year’s Eve 2019

New Year’s Eve 2020








Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai


Hua Hin / Cha-am

Hua Hin / Cha-am


Khao Yai




Khao Yai





Chiang Rai







Chiang Rai


Joyful activities to welcome New Year 2021

Localities across the country will host a string of activities to welcome New Year 2021.

A programme entitled ‘The Village and Colours of Flowers’ will be held from December 1 to January 3, 2021, at the Vietnam National Village for Ethnic Culture and Tourism, in the Dong Mo tourism area of Son Tay Town, Hanoi.

The event will bring together more than 100 ethnic people from 16 ethnic groups of 12 cities and provinces nationwide.

The highlight of the programme will be a rural market which reproduce the typical shopping atmosphere in the mountainous provinces of Dien Bien, Lai Chau and Bac Kan, where market goers can not only shop for local products but can also join folk games and taste indigenous dishes of H’mong and Ha Nhi ethnic people.

The programme will also introduce visitors to the traditional Khu Su Cha Festival of Ha Nhi ethnic group in Dien Bien Province, and On Ro Po Rong Festival of Xo Dang people in Kon Tum Province, during which participants bid farewell to the old year and welcome in the new year.

In Quang Binh Province, a countdown programme will take place in the evening of December 31 in Bo Trach District, featuring colourful street performances and dances

The management boards of Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park will organise a ceremony to welcome the first visitors to the site in 2021, together with assorted activities to celebrate New Year 2021.

New Year 2021 will also be joyfully celebrated in Ba Ria – Vung Tau Province with the organisation of a cuisine festival from December 24 – January 1, 2021, an art programme on the evening of December 31, as well as a flower festival, a photo exhibition, and exciting sporting events.

Meanwhile in Binh Thuan Province, Phan Thien City will start its New Year 2021 with a running event at 6:30 AM, January 1 at Vo Van Kiet Park, which is expected to attract nearly 2,500 runners, and a bicycle race on January 2.

Art performances and lion dances will also be held across the city on the occasion.

Source: Nhan dan onlineA performance at the Vietnam National Village for Ethnic Culture and Tourism

Top tourist attractions to visit on New Year 2021 in Hanoi

As New Year 2021 approaches, people can take time to relax and travel around the city during the three-day vacation between January 1-3.

The New Year holiday season is a great time for people to explore Hanoi, here are the main attractions for them.

One-day tour in Hanoi: 
The One-Pillar Pagoda, Tran Quoc Pagoda, the Ho Chi Minh Museum, Uncle Ho’s house, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, Quan Thanh temple, the Temple of Literature (Van Mieu-Quoc Tu Giam), and Hoan Kiem lake.

Indoor places include Vincom Mega Mall Royal City (74A Nguyen Trai street, Thanh Xuan district); Vinpearl Land Times City (458 Minh Khai street, Hai Ba Trung district), Panasonic Risupia science center (90 Tran Thai Tong street, Cau Giay district); Kinder Park (614 Lac Long Quan road, Tay Ho district).

Trips for those who love culture and ancient beauty are suggested to include Duong Lam village with the special architecture of Mong Phi communal house, Mia Pagoda, and Giang Van Minh church; Son Tay ancient citadel, Van Phuc silk village, among others.

The Huong Pagoda tourist area, located in My Duc district on the outskirts of Hanoi, is not only a religious site but a great sight-seeing spot with complexes of temples, pagodas, streams, caves and waterlily fields. Visitors can board a rowboat along the Yen stream to get to the main sites.

The Dong Mo eco-tourism area, about 40km Hanoi’s downtown, it is an ideal site for camping with its natural beauty of lakes, lakeside lawn and forest, indoor and outdoor activities.

Ao Vua (King Pond) eco-tourism site, located 53km northwest of Hanoi, is a place that visitors find themselves immersed in a space imbued with Vietnamese culture, discovering the ancient legend of Son Tinh and Thuy Tinh (Genie of the Mountain and Genie of the River), and experiencing mountaineering, waterfall climbing, water park games, a tour of caves, and boating on the lake.

Source: Hanoitimes
Photo: Tran Quoc Pagoda. Photo: Vu Minh Quan/Zingnews

Paradise is Back in Business

Leading tourism operators have welcomed guests back to paradise, just in time for the holiday season, following the recent bushfires that devastated the world's largest sand island.

The suite of SeaLink Fraser Island businesses were back up and running on December 19th following a three-week closure, as visitation was temporarily restricted to the destination.

Additional rainfall proved a great support to the valiant firefighting efforts across the island, with Queensland Parks & Wildlife Services having reviewed all safety aspects in readiness for visitors to return.

“It's fantastic that the firefighting efforts have been a success in the past few weeks, and I acknowledge those who have worked to save this magnificent World Heritage-listed environment – we'll be forever thankful”, said Group General Manager David Hay.

With nature coming alive in the fire-affected areas and regeneration already underway, Fraser Island will continue to offer immersive escapes for families and adventure-seekers once again.

The drive-market destination is a favourite choice for Fraser Coast locals and intrastate travellers, exploring the diverse landscapes and renowned nature-based experiences.

“Our team could not wait to welcome guests in time for Christmas, and for those that cannot travel just now, we look forward to seeing even more visitors into the new year”, said Mr Hay.

Despite recent media coverage about the fires, the central area that includes Pile Valley, Central Station, Lake McKenzie, and surrounding rainforest are untouched and remain in pristine condition.

The Pinnacles, Eli Creek, Maheno Shipwreck, Indian Head, Champagne Pools, and Lake Wabby are located along the eastern coastline, and were also unaffected.

Travellers can marvel at these iconic natural attractions once more with the help of the destination's most awarded tour, as Fraser Explorer Tours have also recommenced their one and two-day guided experiences.

Accommodation at both Kingfisher Bay Resort and Eurong Beach Resort, as well as guided resort activities and experiences are operating as per normal over the summer. Fraser Island Ferries continue to run daily passenger and vehicle services to and from the mainland.

Following a challenging year for the local tourism industry, the Fraser Island team are looking ahead to 2021, and will continue to offer bucket list experiences for guests of all ages.

For media enquiries about Kingfisher Bay Resort, Eurong Beach Resort, Fraser Explorer Tours and Fraser Island Ferries, contact:

WATCH: Fraser Island is 'Good to Go' with Lee Carseldine -



Maharashtra government plans an 'event board' to attract events, MICE and facilitate industry's growth

On the event industry front, Maharashtra Tourism is forming an events board.

“We wanted to build the hospitality industry as a core industry for the state. Likewise, with the event industry. Maharashtra has no dearth of talent and no dearth of audiences as well,” said Aaditya Thackeray, Minister for Tourism, Environment and Protocol, Government of Maharashtra, speaking at ‘CONGREGATIONS INDIA: Government, Political, Sport & Religious Events Summit’ organized on 24 December 2020.

The interaction that happened on the eve of Christmas 2020, became magical as Thackeray put on Santa’s hat and made commitments for development and growth of the event and hospitality industry on a war footing.

Aaditya Thackery announced: "On the event industry front, Maharashtra Tourism is forming an events board, talks for which have been on since early 2020."

The Minister committed sweeping policy changes for the event industry similar to what has been done for the hospitality industry. This would include revamp of the licensing to ensure ease of doing business and an Event Board to facilitate incentives for events and MICE as well as to attract global events to Maharashtra.

He said, “There are two things we will be doing in the coming few weeks. One, we will be forming an events board as a platform for everyone to have an interaction with the government, suggest ways to go ahead and how we can actually incentivize this industry, how do we re-build this industry, which has been adversely affected by the pandemic. The other is, we are going to have regular physical interactions, so that we can hear from you. Rather than me speaking, we want to hear your perspectives on what we can do better and what we can do right.”

Moderator Sabbas Joseph, co-Founder Director, Wizcraft International, immediately responded committing support and participation from the event industry and EEMA leadership to help the Minister pivot the changes on collaboration between government and industry, which the Minister welcomed.

Sharing what had been done for the allied hospitality industry, the Minister revealed that in the last three months, the number of licenses required by the hospitality sector had been reduced from 70 to 10, number of application forms from 70 to eight and from needing 15 NOCs, new establishments now only need nine self-certifications.

“We have given the status of ‘industry’ to the hospitality sector, which was long-pending – for almost 30 years. My age by now,” he quipped. “I do hope that working together we could make similar policy changes for the event industry too”, he confirmed.

‘Want to make tourism department an enabler’
Moderator Joseph pointed to reports of Maharashtra launching beach shacks in eight destinations, promoting agro-tourism, creating resorts in partnership with hospitality majors (on long lease), making Mumbai 24x7, and even a Wankhede Tour.

Prodded about the Minister and the Tourism department under him being in a hurry, the Minister responded saying, “I am definitely in a hurry because every day is crucial, no day that is wasted comes by again. If you look at climate change or tourism, building on that each day is really important.”

Asked about the ‘Divine Maharashtra’ initiative with IRCTC, Thackeray noted that while the state of Maharashtra was home to shrines of all faiths that attracted lakhs of pilgrims, they had never been looked at formally, from a tourism perspective.

“When I say divine tourism, I am not talking about exploiting them or getting money or revenue out of them. What we are looking at is facilities for them to reach those places comfortably, for them to spend a night in that place, to have a good bed and breakfast there, so that they can pray to their hearts’ fullest. I think we’ve truly got to support these instruments of hope, that is prayer, to give comfort to the pilgrim who is walking on foot, driving in or flying in,” explained the Minister and this is irrespective of religion.

Besides which, there will be multiple ancillary facilities and businesses that will come up around these religious destinations making them sustainable, noted Thackeray, pointing to Shirdi, which has Maharashtra’s second busiest airport after Mumbai.

Responding to moderator Joseph’s point on promoting Maharashtra Tourism in the backdrop of budgetary cuts due to Covid19, Thackeray underlined that for the first time, a budget of Rs.1,200 crore had been allocated to the sector in March 2020. The government had subsequently announced a 67 percent reduction in development spends across the board due to the pandemic.

“Tourism had to cut spending, much like every other department except Health, Home and a couple of others”, noted Thackeray. “But Maharashtra Tourism seems to have thought things through when it comes to promoting itself as a destination”.

As the Minister put it, “Tourism is about two things. One is a thing to do (activity). And the other is a place of hospitality, be it a beach shack or a luxury resort. Between both of them is the vibe that we create. That’s where promotion comes in.” He added that the tourism department must create that vibe – and leave businesses to take over from thereon.

“More than micro-managing, I want to make this department an enabler. It’s not our job to be micromanaging hotels or restaurants or going into creating tourist destinations. If you look at markets like the UK or New Zealand or many others, the tourism departments have been enablers for the individual citizens and businesses to demonstrate their talent and ability on a world scale. And to welcome people from the world over to their place,” explained Thackeray.

Bullish on Tourism Potential: I wanted the Tourism portfolio
At the very start of the session, the Minister noted that while Maharashtra was blessed with natural beauty and diversity, adventure destinations, pilgrim spots and many more tourist attractions, they had not been leveraged to potential.

“Why haven’t we used it yet for tourism in the state was the question I was carrying all these years,” he reflected.

“This department of tourism was usually considered to be a ‘side’ department. Any officer or minister who was to be sidelined was given this department. The difference is, I asked for this department. The only reason for that is, I see the huge potential that Maharashtra has in terms of contribution to our economy, contribution to our revenue streams, contribution to job creation in the state and the potential it has to grow in tourism,” said Thackeray.

“Tourism is one sector where you cannot replace human experience with machines. It is one sector where Maharashtra and India have the potential to grow,” he added.

Balancing Tourism and Environment, Creating a Sustainable Lifestyle
Veering back to the session theme of ‘Balancing Tourism and Environment for Sustainable Growth: Can Maha Lead the Way under Young Thackeray’ Joseph asked the Minister about balancing the two portfolios and his perspective on sustainable growth.

On his experience of running the two portfolios (tourism and environment), Thackeray said they could be coming together at some points, running parallel in others, and in conflict with each other at times, too.

“Boating is great anywhere in the world. The flipside is, whether you have a motorable boat or a non-motorable boat. Take beach shacks, for example. Beach shack tourism is always going to grow multifold in a state like Maharashtra. Compared to Goa, the amount of opportunities we have in Maharashtra and are creating right now is truly insane. But while doing that, we have to look at the sea, turtle nesting places, migratory birds and whether there is discharge of any kind solid or liquid waste going into the sea, treated or not,” said the speaker.

Donning the hat of Environment Minister and climate change activist, Thackeray added, “This is not just about tourism. I talk about sustainability in two things. One is a sustainable model for the environment. The second is a sustainable model for the economy. How do we balance both is very crucial. Sustainability has to become a lifestyle. We don’t want to be living with a mask 24/7 for the rest of our lives. We want to breathe fresh air.”

Asked about reopening of the tourism and event industries which have been badly impacted by the Covid19 pandemic and lockdown, the Minister emphasized the need for a cautious approach.

“Many states opened up in a hurry and had to close down most of the things they opened up. What we are trying to do with ‘Mission Begin Again’ is open up in a staggered, painfully slow and careful manner, but not close down on anything that we’ve opened up. Because opening up and closing down again would be more damaging to any industry,” noted Thackeray.

“I want events to happen in Maharashtra. I want MICE to grow. Be it music concerts, live events, live theatre, live shows, there are multiple things that EEMA can host. I want it to be a vibrant state, which is precisely why I brought in the 24/7 enabling act,” the Minister stated.

“So, we will open up. The thing is events like concerts cannot be held with just 50 people. And some of the performers – including politicians, who are performers – have to speak over video conferencing to reach larger audiences. But I am hoping we can get through this very soon,” surmised Thackeray.



Lifeline Australia has offered a message of support to businesses and workers engaged in the NSW visitor economy.

It would like to remind everyone about the services that are available throughout the holiday period and encourages people to check-in with others who may be struggling, and to reach out for support for themselves, if needed.

Lifeline Australia’s Chairman, John Brogden, this week said the service was expecting a 40 per cent increase in contacts over the holiday period and had resourced accordingly to be available 24 hours a day for people who need support.

Mr Brogden also encouraged Australians to continue to reach out to those around them, especially those who are unable to be with their family and friends at this time. “Never underestimate the power you have to make a positive difference to another person. A small act of kindness can make the world of difference when you are struggling.”

Lifeline is a national charity providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. The phone service is available at 13 11 14.

This year’s New Year’s Eve broadcast on ABC will focus on the issue of mental health through a partnership with Lifeline and Kids Helpline for the Your Mental Health Appeal. To donate visit:


Destination NSW

Merry Christmas - Preview of 2021 Mekong Tourism Activities

To say that 2020 has been a challenging and unexpected year is probably an understatement. Nevertheless, we are nearing the end of December, and 2021 is just around the corner. Despite our hopes and prayers for a better year, I think we need to be realistic, especially as the world is experiencing increased infections of COVID-19. A few tourism boards from all over the world were asked by the Future of Tourism Coalition to provide thoughts on what 2021 might bring. Take a look.

What are we planning for 2021 at Mekong Tourism? Instead of listing our many projects and achievements during this challenging year, I wanted to give you a quick Preview of our TOP 11 Activities for 2021:

1. COVID-19: The current pandemic remains to be a critical issue, and we will continue to update our Corona Virus Update Page, Coronavirus Government Policy Updates, and our Infographs with quick information. We also continue our support program of our social enterprises in the Experience Mekong Collection, and curate innovative initiatives by organizations during COVID-19.

2. e-Newsletter: We will split our current newsletter in two separate newsletters. (1) One will focus on activities of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office and the six tourism ministries of the Mekong Region, by providing links to relevant stories and events, as well as Corona Virus updates. The newsletter will be designed to be short and to-the-point, to give you the most important highlights quickly. (2) The other newsletter will be the new Destination Mekong e-Newsletter showcasing updates about our programs, such as the Experience Mekong Collection, Mekong Heroes, as well as our various campaigns and co-op opportunities for the industry to get involved. This newsletter will be inspiring, featuring stories of destinations, unique businesses, passionate people, and innovative initiatives. Important: Due to privacy protection, we will ask you to sign-up to the new Destination Mekong e-newsletter next year.

3. MIST: The Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism Program, MIST, now in its 4th year, will evolve into an exciting program, focusing on innovation to drive sustainability and resilience. Stay tuned for an exiting announcement in mid January.

4. Virtual Internship Program: We have been talking to hotel and tourism programs at universities all over the world, and in collaboration with many professors, we are working on an exciting new virtual internship program. We look to deliver passionate smart young people to travel and tourism businesses in the region. Work in progress, but a program that will be critical for the process of tourism in the Mekong Region.

5. Mekong Tourism Forum in Bagan/Myanmar: The annual flagship tourism conference of the Mekong Region, the Mekong Tourism Forum, has been moved multiple times due to COVID-19, previously scheduled to take place end of February 2021. The MTCO Board, made up of the six tourism ministries has decided at the last GMS Tourism Working Group Meeting to further postpone Mekong Tourism Forum for the 3rd Quarter of 2021. By mid year 2021, the current situations will be re-evaluated to confirm or change the dates.

6. Destination Mekong Summit: Due to the further postponement of the Mekong Tourism Forum in Bagan, we are considering to organize a 2nd Destination Mekong Summit, which will be in virtual, and possibly hybrid format. In the meantime, you can view the sessions from the 1st Destination Mekong Summit.

7. Mekong Heroes: The nominations are open, and an announcement will go out beginning of 2021, to launch the call for the 2nd Mekong Hero. Please see more information at and nominate your favorite hero.

8. Experience Mekong Showcases: We are also getting ready to start selecting the shortlist for the 4th Experience Mekong Showcases. We expect top open public voting by mid 2021, or sooner.

9. Mekong Tourism Advisory Group (MeTAG): The Mekong Tourism Advisory Group is active, and we are about ready to start forming thematic expert groups in areas such as Wellness, Arts & Culture, Culinary, Child Protection, Wildlife Conservation, and Climate Change. We have also received 20 nominations from existing members for additional people to join MeTAG. Invitations will go out soon, and are excited to further grow this important and powerful community of passionate travel and tourism professionals in the Mekong Region.

10. Tourism Recovery Campaigns: We continue to work on our "Integrated Tourism Recovery System", which connects three tourism campaign platforms (Memories, Secrets, and Deals), powered by the powerful Enwoke technology, to stimulate local and domestic travel, prepare the industry (especially small businesses) for digital transformation, and to promote the destinations via inspiring visual storytelling to put our destinations on the list to visit once travel is possible again. In order to scale better, and receive funding to accelerate technology development, as well as to assist other tourism destinations around the world to prepare for tourism recovery, we are happy to make this innovative platform available to other governments, tourism boards, and private sector multi-stakeholder organizations all over the world. We hope to be ready to invite businesses in the Mekong Region to participate in Mekong Memories, and Mekong Deals in the 1st quarter of 2021.

11. Partnerships: We have engaged in various partnerships to focus on single-use plastic pollution (One Planet Program with UNWTO & UNEP), climate-friendly travel (SunX Program), and sustainability (Future of Tourism Coalition). We look to further engage in collaborate with partners in these important programs, to make sure that the region is as prepared and as strong for tourism recovery, once borders open again, and travel resumes.

I hope many of you will get engaged and actively participate in our programs and initiatives.

I personally would like to thank all our partners, from individuals that have continued to encourage me and give me valuable advise (you know who you are), to organizations from ADB, UNWTO, WTTC, to many travel companies in the GMS, as well as the six tourism ministries of the Greater Mekong Subregion for having extending my contract multiple times. I would have never expected to be in this role for over 6 years, and I feel personally very honored and privileged to be allowed to be of service. 

With that, I wish all of you, your families, and your staff, a very Merry Christmas, and a happy, healthy, and prosperous NewYear! I personally hope and look forward to seeing many of you in person, as well as virtually online.

Kind regards,
Jens Thraenhart
Executive Director
Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO)

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Clinique La Prairie Debuts at The St. Regis Bangkok

Pioneers in rejuvenation and longevity, Clinique La Prairie welcomes its first facility outside of Europe with the opening of Clinique La Prairie Aesthetics Medical & Spa at The St. Regis Bangkok; a cosmopolitan hideaway in the heart of Asia’s emerging wellness capital.

A state-of-the-art retreat with sweeping Bangkok city views, this luxurious haven of wellbeing takes guests on a journey of transformative wellness, creating a personalised path to living a healthier, longer and better life.

The Clinique La Prairie Aesthetics & Medical Spa wellbeing menu ranges from anti-ageing facials and detoxifying body treatments to massages designed to restore internal balance. Signature experiences include facial contouring to lift and rejuvenate, body firming therapies, and oil massages accompanied by Tibetan singing bowl induce a state of pure harmony. Always adapted to the guest and provided by experts, the wide variety of massages and rituals are unique holistic experiences, focusing on core pillars of stress relief, deep relaxation, energy or lymphatic flow stimulation.

Available for the first time in Thailand, Clinique La Prarie’s signature range of age-defying therapies and cellular skincare, Swiss Perfection, will debut at the Clinique La Prairie Aesthetics & Medical Spa. At the forefront of cutting-edge skincare, Swiss Perfection scientifically proven anti-ageing facials focus on immediately visible and lasting results. Swiss Perfection’s signature complex, Cellular Active IRISA®, is rich in proteins, enzymes and antioxidants that target cellular DNA. Results-oriented, Swiss Perfection combines biotechnology with natural extracts to prevent and reverse the ageing process on all skin types.

Perched on the 15th floor of The St. Regis Bangkok and extending over 1,500 sqm, Clinique La Prairie Bangkok boasts 10 treatment rooms including a dedicated hammam facility, Thai massage room, couple’s suites and massage therapy rooms. The relaxation facilities are spread across two levels including a wet area with rain showers, Thai herbal steam rooms, twilight rasul, vitality pools, foot reflexology water wall and relaxation pods.

Exclusive memberships will be available for those who wish to enjoy a full spectrum of benefits and achieve a profound and holistic change in wellbeing. These packages include private consultations and tailor-made therapies in addition to innovative treatments, personal training and exclusive access to St Regis Bangkok wellness facilities and dining. Packages with exclusive opening value ranging between 100,000 to 350,000 THB++ can be booked directly through the spa. A premium annual membership offering an exclusive residential stay at Clinique La Prairie Montreux in Switzerland will also be available.

“Clinique La Prairie is world-renowned for its cutting-edge therapies,” says Zoe Wall, Group Director of MSpa International, the operator of the Bangkok spa under Minor Hotels. “Guests travel thousands of miles just to access Clinique La Prairie’s specialists, so we are delighted to now offer our own rejuvenation and longevity experience here in Asia.”

Adds Simone Gibertoni, CEO of Clinique La Prairie, Switzerland, “The St. Regis Bangkok is the perfect partner for our first foray outside of Europe. This medical spa represents an outstanding continuation of our 90-year journey of premium wellness, offering clients unique expertise, treatments and technologies to support their personal journey to look, feel and live well.

In 2021, Clinique La Prairie Bangkok will expand when the medical facility opens with an additional six treatment rooms. Using innovative solutions and techniques in the field of preventive and restorative aesthetics, an unrivalled team of beauty professionals will provide a broad range of personalized treatments that provide lasting and effective results. In line with Clinique La Prairie’s philosophy to inspire a healthier, longer and better life, medical experts will also offer personalized consultations to address longevity, nutrition, and health.

About Clinique La Prairie Aesthetics & Medical Spa Bangkok: 
The first Clinique La Prairie flagship outside of Europe, Clinique La Prairie Aesthetics & Medical Spa Bangkok is a haven of rejuvenation and wellbeing that addresses beauty, longevity, nutrition and wellness concerns with scientifically proven treatments, lifestyle-enhancing products, and signature wellness traditions. Located on level 15 of The St. Regis Bangkok and extending over 1,500 sqm, Clinique La Prairie Aesthetics & Medical Spa Bangkok boasts 16 treatment rooms including a dedicated hammam facility, Thai massage room, couple’s suites and massage therapy rooms. The relaxation facilities are spread across two levels with wet area facilities including rain showers, Thai herbal steam rooms, twilight rasul, vitality pools, foot reflexology water walk, and relaxation pods. Discover more at

For bookings please contact:
Annika Sofia Bjorka
Director of Spa | Clinique La Prairie at The St. Regis Bangkok
T: +66 (0) 2207 7777-9 E:


Precious Black Winter Truffles at Elements

Black winter truffle season has arrived at Michelin-starred Elements restaurant where Chef de Cuisine Hans Zahner and his team will be serving up wonderful dishes featuring the treasure known as the Black Diamond of Perigord for the region in France where the richly flavoured delicacy is found.

Widely considered to be among the best in the world, the highly-prized black truffles are harvested in the fecund earth of mountainous woods in Perigord. These truffles have a dark outer skin and a marbled chocolate interior when ripe, giving them an intoxicating nutty or woody aroma that adds great depth of flavour to any dish. Lovers of the fungi can expect a truffle feast prepared with French culinary techniques and Japanese twists. Highlights on the menu at Elements including Challans duck served with salsify (oyster root and kabocha, and famously succulent grilled Satsuma wagyu beef from Kagoshima Prefecture. Servers will also be on hand to present truffles and offer shavings of the precious delicacy to diners at tableside.

Black Winter Truffle dishes are offered at market price. Available at Elements restaurant every Tuesday – Saturday from 19 January – 31 March 2021, 18:00 - 22:30.

Elements Restaurant is located on the 25th floor of The Okura Prestige Bangkok. For more information and reservations, please contact 02 687 9000, or email, or book on our website

The Okura Prestige Bangkok
Park Ventures Ecoplex
57 Wireless Road, Bangkok 10330, Thailand
T. +66 (0) 2687 9000
F. +66 (0) 2687 9001


Da Nang to hold numerous activities to welcome New Year

The central city of Da Nang is planning a myriad of New Year welcoming activities to attract tourists, and they will be organised at an appropriate scale depending on the COVID-19 situation, a local official said on December 9.

The “Da Nang Festival – Welcome New Year 2021” programme, slated for December 30, 2020 to January 3, 2021, aims to help revitalise tourism amid the new normal so as to ensure the twin targets of pandemic control and socio-economic development, according to Director of the municipal Tourism Department Truong Thi Hong Hanh.

She noted that apart from recent travel stimulus efforts, festivities held during the New Year holiday will also help advertise local culture, cuisine, and places of interest as well as create new tourism products so as to draw more visitors to the city.

The programme, to take place at the square of the Asia Park in Hai Chau district, will feature a wide range of activities like a cyclo parade, free night tours on the Han River, street music shows, and singing and dancing performances with traditional musical instruments.

A noodle festival with typical noodle dishes of Vietnam and other countries, along with booths introducing Da Nang’s delicacies, is also expected to add further to the city’s attractiveness.

Source: VNA
Photo: Vang (Golden) Bridge, a famous tourist attraction in Da Nang city (Photo: VNA)

Remote Southern Australian Coast in Sight for Coral Adventurer in January 2021

Coral Expeditions, Australia's pioneering cruise line, has announced that flagship Coral Adventurer will return to operations this January after a ten-month hiatus in her homeport of Cairns. Having successfully completed an 8-voyage season with Coral Discoverer on the Great Barrier Reef with new health protocols in place, Coral Expeditions is now ready to expand its domestic itineraries with the return of state-of-the-art Coral Adventurer. This new series of expeditions involve wilderness coastlines of Australia previously unvisited in the company's 35-year history.

The relaunch marks another significant milestone for the Australian-flagged operator, which was the first company to resume ocean voyages in Australia. It is very encouraging news for the company's Australian seafarers and Cairns-based HQ staff.

The new itineraries commence next month and focus on the pristine nature, rugged landscapes and rarely explored corners of South Australia, the Great Australian Bight, and the coral reefs and islands of Western Australia and Queensland, giving Australians more unique opportunities to explore and discover as domestic travel returns. Jeff Gillies, Commercial Director states: “As we head into 2021 with ongoing uncertainties for the travel industry, there is no better sanctuary than our own home shores. Our new voyages celebrate Australia with small numbers of local guests and crew traversing a large tract of the continent that we have not explored before on a number of unique voyages between Cairns, Brisbane, Adelaide and Fremantle this summer”.

As with other domestic itineraries, guests will be drawn from the Australian market and capped at under 100. Coral Expeditions operates an all-Australian flagged fleet with an Australian crew. Its proven SailSAFE health protocols, duly approved by all state authorities, will remain in place till risks recede. To assist guests and the broader travel industry in this time of uncertainty, Coral Expeditions will continue offering flexible booking and deposit protection terms.

Coral Expeditions new expedition series includes:

Outer Reefs & Cays of the Coral Sea

12-nights | Cairns to Brisbane departing 22 January 2021
This voyage uncovers the biodiverse ecology, intriguing maritime history, and the outer limits of the Great Barrier Reef and the Coral Sea. Plunge below the surface into the extraordinary habitats where abundant marine life awaits. Explore one of the world's best dive sites at Holmes Reef, and snorkel at some of the Coral Sea's most remote reefs, such as Marion, Frederick & Cato Reefs. Along the way, step ashore on deserted cays at Herald Cays & Diamond Islets for beachcombing, hiking, and relaxing sunset drinks. Get close to nature with opportunities for incredible birdwatching, and snorkelling among vibrant schools of pelagic fish and green sea turtles. Our expert guides will share great stories and insights of Australia's maritime history as we follow the wake of early navigators. Staterooms from $ 6,990 per person twin share, all-inclusive.

Wild Islands and Walks of South Australia
10-nights | Adelaide to Adelaide departing 10 February 2021
This voyage offers the opportunity to explore and hike South Australia's wild islands, where forested National Parks give way to sheer wave-carved cliffs and sweeping white-sand beaches. A highlight of the itinerary is a series of guides trekking excursions through coastal nature trails and to rugged island outlooks where guests will be rewarded with sweeping ocean vistas. Hosted by expert guides, including Kangaroo Island resident and well-known writer and photographer Quentin Chester, learn about the flora, fauna, and history of this remote habitat. Cool down with an invigorating ocean swim or enjoy kayaking in the beautiful turquoise waters at destinations such as Antechamber Bay on Kangaroo Island. Less-visited islands, such as Hopkins Island and Wedge Island, offer the opportunity to encounter charismatic native wildlife - inquisitive Australian sea lions, bettong, fairy penguins, rock wallabies, and many more. Along the way, enjoy the tastes of South Australian and indulge in fresh regional seafood and hand-selected local wines. Staterooms from $6,390 per person twin share, all-inclusive

Across the Great Australian Bight
13-nights | Adelaide to Fremantle departing 21 February 2021
A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to cross the Great Australian Bight, this voyage will visit hard-to-reach islands and iconic National Parks along the south coast. Voyage past the majestic Bunda Cliffs, the world's longest stretch of sea-cliffs forged by the powerful Southern Ocean. Enjoy guided walks along the vast and secluded beaches at locations such as Cape Arid National Park, Cape Le Grand, and Bremer Bay. Among the scattered islands and outcrops of the Archipelago of the Recherche, discover remote breeding grounds of sea lions and follow the snorkel trail at Shearwater Bay to spot the elusive Leafy Sea Dragon. As we round the southwest edge of Australia discover enjoy time ashore with sunset drinks with the kangaroos at Lucky Bay, a visit to extraordinary Jewel Cave, swimming with stingrays at Hamelin Bay, and walk amongst the vines and sample wines through the Margaret River region. Staterooms from $8,290 per person twin share, all-inclusive

The Abrolhos Islands & the Coral Coast
12-nights | Fremantle to Broome departing 10 March 2021
This expedition explores Western Australia's wild and largely untouched coast, with its contrasting coastal palette of rich red sands and turquoise sea. With a fascinating maritime and Indigenous history – from the Malgana people of Shark Bay to the exploratory journeys of William Dampier, Dirk Hartog, Baudin and Freycinet – this region is layered with stories. The natural coastal reserves harbour an abundance of birdlife and fascinating marine species. Our guides will help guests explore the renowned Houtman Abrolhos Islands, Shark Bay World Heritage Area, Ningaloo Reef, Cape Range National Park, Montebello Islands, Muiron Islands and Dampier Archipelago. Staterooms from $9,290 per person twin share, all-inclusive

For more information about the SailSAFE Plan, click HERE


Website: Coral Expeditions

Prepare yourself….We’re announcing a Spring 2021 IN PERSON Educational!!!

Finally, this most memorable year, for all the wrong reasons, is really and truly over. Let’s all raise a glass of our favorite beverage as we toast the end of 2020 and take a well-deserved drink of whatever makes us happiest to ring in 2021 which is sure to be the first of the 20xx series that we will WANT to remember!

I believe that my late December birthdate accords me the special privilege of declaring 2020 null and void and so I suggest that we all have the legal right to skip a year when calculating our ages.

With that said I must also say that I am so very happy to be working on another educational trip to Sicily this spring. This is a region I love, my region of residence, and not of birth but this is where my soul is currently feeling at home. I love this island and I love the people even with their quirkiness because they are authentic, organic, local, and real. The people are as interesting as the architecture found in every corner of Sicily. The guides we have on this island are special because some have chosen to stay local so they can share their love for this place with our travelers whose curiosity goes beyond monuments and art, food, and religion. Our guides LOVE the fact that our clients are interested in traditions, customs, and local interactions.

Sicily is one REAL region and area of Italy, but some Italians don’t consider it a part of Italy at all. They consider it as being separate from Italy and a place on its own. There are so many hidden corners here and so many times and events throughout the year that the people and traditions become the highlights here. These combinations make the island even more interesting, as it becomes a melting pot of Italian and Arabic cultures.

Click here if you would like to learn more about our Sicily Educational coming spring 2021.

This place could be the poster-child for Italian under-tourism and because of that, you won’t spend any time worrying about social distancing or anything along those lines.

So why don't you let your curiosity run free and visit this corner of Italy? I am sure this going to be the highlight of many 2021 travels.

If you would like to see what we've been doing and will continue to do for travel agents take a look at our Facebook group.


We receive comments, feedback and praise from clients nearly every day. Below is an example of one we received. Click on the link below to see even more!

I've been selling See Italy Travel for a few years now and want to know first-hand how you folks do things. It's obviously working. Every client I've ever booked with you has come back from Italy a "happy camper."

Just yesterday, Rumsey and Priscilla, who recently returned, dropped by my office unexpectedly to give me a de-briefing of their 2 1/2 week trip arranged by See Italy. He's a retired American Airlines pilot who has traveled the world and always made all their own arrangements.

His comments were "I could have done this myself at a cheaper rate, but it was so worth it to be taken care of from beginning to end. The hotels in Florence, Positano and Rome were out of this world and the staff everywhere we went, from hotels, to drivers, to tour guides were beyond compare. I am recommending you to everyone I know."

That's a short overview from an hour of "de-briefing."


Deb V. - Luxury Travel Advisor - ROCKY MOUNTAIN TRAVEL


Why use our company? Because our MISSION is to ensure that your clients are well taken care of and experience the "authentic" Italian way of life. We only use GENUINE Italian guides on excursions. We strive to arrange small group tours, enhancing the Italian experience which is often lost in larger groups...


See Italy Travel P.O. Box 927268 San Diego California 92192 USA