Thailand: what your clients need to know

A call has been made for visitors to Thailand to respect the mourning period in the destination, following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on October 13.

While most public services are unaffected, a range of entertainment, sport and cultural events have been cancelled or postponed, and guidelines have been issued on acceptable behaviour.

According to the British Embassy travel advisory, following the official announcement of the death of KingBhumibol Adulyadej there is now an official period of mourning of one year from 14 October 2016.

It states travellers should respect the feelings and sensitivities of the Thai people at this time; access to entertainment, including restaurants, bars, and shopping areas may be restricted and you should behave respectfully when in public areas.

It also advised, if possible, wear sombre and respectful clothing when in public; check local media regularly and follow the advice of the local authorities. Not everyone is required to follow millions of mourning Thais in wearing black, but visitors are nonetheless expected to avoid overly revealing or colourful attire.

On the country’s popular southern beaches, however, normal swimwear is expected to remain acceptable.

A number of entertainment events have been cancelled, including concerts by Morrissey and the Scorpions, and Korean K-pop bands Big Bang, JYP and FT Island.

Dozens of local stage plays and other Thai entertainment also have been called off as have a range of Bangkok arts and music festivals, according to Khaosod, a popular English-language website.

The city’s 14th World Film Festival set for November has been postponed to January 20-29.

A range of religious and cultural festivals around the country also have been suspended.

These include next month’s Loi Krathong festival, in which colourful decorative baskets are released on rivers around the country, and annual buffalo races in southern Chonburi.

All entertainment programming on Thai television has been banned for the next month, but cinemas have reopened following a brief initial shutdown.

Most tourist sites in Thailand including its exquisite Buddhist temples remain open.

Due to funeral rites, however, Bangkok’s gilded Grand Palace, the seat of the royalty, and the sacred Temple of the Emerald Buddha on its grounds are closed to visitors until Friday, 21 October.

Most of Bangkok’s numerous popular open-air markets also are expected to stay in operation but visitors are advised to check locally as some have been reported closed.


Air travel to become more child-friendly

On July 13, the US passed a Bill (The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorisation Bill) that is expected to greatly improve family travel.

With the transition to new airline policies offering premium seats and boarding options for a fee, families are often facing anxiety-inducing challenges and choices. Parents are forced to pay additional fees when checking in to their flight just to ensure they can sit next to their small children on the plane. In many cases, parents must disrupt the boarding process to ask willing passengers to change their seats, despite the fact that these individuals may have already paid additional fees for seats themselves.

US Congressman Jerrold Nadler said in a statement that this Bill, dubbed the ‘Families Flying Together’ Bill, puts an end to the ‘absurdity’ of toddlers sitting separate or unattended on an airplane – requiring airlines to plan ahead so that families with young children under 13 can fly together. It also allows pregnant women to pre-board their flights.

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, who drafted the family-friendly amendment to the Bill, added: “Parents shouldn’t have to pay extra to sit with their kids on a flight. Separating them is not safe and often leaves them at the mercy of other passengers who must decide whether to trade seats. Separating young kids from their parents during the screening process can be just as traumatic, and the TSA shouldn’t be allowed to do it. Our amendment puts in place commonsense protections that will reduce the extra and unnecessary stress applied to families and pregnant women traveling by air.”

It seems that airlines have taken note of the new regulations. According to an article in the APEX Daily, several airlines have started already introducing changes.

Denver-based Frontier Airlines added a Kid Zone to the rear of its aircraft the day after the FAA Reauthorisation Bill was passed. Families travelling together can book a middle seat for free, while window and aisle seats are available at a minimal charge.

BA re-launched its Kids Fly for Free offer, which allow children under 12 to fly for free with every adult ticket purchased on selected routes.

Ryanair is not as forthcoming, and gives consideration to those passengers who have pre-booked seats. Starting September, the airline will require adults travelling with children under 12 to buy one reserved seat. The child’s reserved seat will be free, as will the seat for an additional accompanying adult.

Families on long-haul flights with Air New Zealand can stretch out and get comfortable by booking an Economy Skycouch, a three-seat row that can be configured into a flat space using footrests that move into a horizontal position.

In South Africa, rewards children under 12 with a kiddies certificate, whereas parents flying with Mango can purchase an entertainment pack for their children.

The future of travel search

Shopping around when it comes to buying travel appears to be the rule of thumb according to a joint Amadeus – PhoCusWright report entitled “Empowering inspiration: the future of travel search”.

Apparently consumers feel like they are making a hasty, potentially regrettable purchase if they don’t shop around. The study looks at how consumers make holiday and travel decisions today and in the future, highlighting that the biggest issue in travel planning remains information overload.

The practice of yield management by travel suppliers has further created “substantial anxiety” about when consumers should book.

Interestingly, many consumers, in fact most in emerging markets, don’t actually have a specific destination in mind when they start their trip planning process. The study says because of this, there’s definitely a need for better roll-ups and condensed snapshots of information such as seasonal temperature/precipitation and price ranges.

Download and read the study here. It’s 45 pages of research but well worth the read…And what’s more it’s free. Thank you Amadeus!