Sunday, February 23, 2014

Charity fair at Central World - what a joke

I should have been suspicious when I heard about a charity fair organised by some women from the diplomatic community. Usually events like this are overprized and more a chic social networking party then an actual fair. Well, this time it was a fair indeed. Only that the products were - with few exception - apparently overstock that needs to be sold quickly and cheap. 

First of all, there was no sign, poster or banner even telling you that this is a charity fair. Just a small sign at the booth explaining the country the booth is representing. While Syria and Jordan actually sold some handicrafts, France had a fridge with La Vache Qui Rie, the Laughing Cow Cheese - certainly not the top of French cheese makers. Others sold cosmetics, olive oil, carpets. Maybe the organizers expected customers to just shut up, buy and support a charity. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Stop blaming embassies for travel warnings

Todays big news is a CEO of a "also in tourism"-company and his piece in the Bangkok Post.  William E Heinecke complains about travel warnings from embassies and says it's bad for business.

However, the travel warnings and restrictions issued by some foreign governments incorrectly dispel this fact. Tourists have never been a target in the protests and to this end all airports in Thailand...

... These unnecessarily severe travel advisories are now having a major impact on the livelihoods of Thai people across the country.

...If there were demonstrations in Washington or Paris, would tourists be advised not to visit the entire country? Would travel warnings ever be issued? "

It is a fact that tourism numbers are down and companies in Thailand are suffering from this (my wife works in the tourism business, so I know how it is).

But can we really blame the embassies? No. They do their job and they do it actually pretty good. First of all most of them issue a travel advice and not a warning (the latter is way more serious and can give you the right to cancel a trip without paying cancellation fees)

So what did the embassies say:

The U.S. Department of State alerts U.S. citizens of the potential risks of travel to Thailand, particularly Bangkok, due to ongoing political and social unrest...Demonstrations, primarily in the greater Bangkok area and occasionally elsewhere in Thailand, are continuing, and there have been regular incidents of violence. ...Some protest sites are located near tourist attractions and popular shopping malls, which at times have closed or shortened business hours unexpectedly. Protests may occur in other areas with little or no prior notice."

German Foreign Ministry Travel Advice:
(Google Translation, but you get an idea)
Since 01/13/2014 Government opponents block several transportation hubs in the inner city of Bangkok. The streets most affected lie within the catchment area of ​​large shopping centers such as the Phatumwan intersection (MBK / Siam Paragon), Ratchaprasong intersection (Central World), Asoke junction (terminal 21) and Sala Daeng intersection (Silom, Patpong night market). There will be some significant disabilities. The Thai government has started on 14.02.2014 with the evacuation of single occupied sites and buildings in Bangkok. It has the 18.2. Where deaths and injuries.
It is also advised to avoid demonstrations and large crowds throughout the Bangkok city area.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla on the Thai-Malaysia border. See Terrorism.
The FCO advise against all travel to the Preah Vihear (Khaoi Pra Viharn in Thai) temple area and the Ta Krabey/Ta Moan temple area located on the Thai-Cambodian border due to the presence of troops in the area and the risk of outbreaks of fighting. See Cambodian border.
There is a high threat of terrorism. See Terrorism.
Political demonstrations continue in and around Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand. Some of these have been violent, including the use of firearms, and there have been casualties and deaths. The situation is unpredictable and further protests are expected.

Aussenministerium Österreich (Austria)
Erhöhtes Sicherheitsrisiko für ThailandHohes Sicherheitsrisiko für BangkokBangkok ist nach wie vor mit Großdemonstrationen der Regierungsgegner konfrontiert.
Im Rahmen der Kampagne „Shutdown Bangkok“ haben die Regierungsgegner wichtige Straßenkreuzungen Bangkoks besetzt, sowie die öffentliche Verwaltung teilweise blockiert; öffentliche Verkehrsmittel und die Flughäfen wurden ausdrücklich ausgenommen und bislang nicht blockiert. Das ursprünglich befürchtete Verkehrschaos sowie eine eingeschränkte Versorgungslage sind bis dato nur teilweise eingetreten.

I can't see any warning that they advice against traveling to Thailand, but they do give a assessment about the situation of certain areas. And there is a certain risk of the conflict spreading - we have seen spontaneous protests in other parts already.

Also, they give this kind of advice about the south (and recently about Prehar Vihear) frequently with having  complains of this kind.

It's not the embassies who are creating a fuzz, it is the media (twitter included). Every updated travel alert is tweeted as a breaking news, even if it's just an update about the current situation. Of course media looks for the unusual, new, surprising news, and shootings in Bangkok are news. So they use the embassies advice to create a warning and make it a big story.

Dear Mr. William E Heinecke, you just pointed the finger to the wrong people. First of all it is the PDRC creating the chaos and maybe the current government causing this. As we all know certain people in the background are participating in this power struggle, even if they have shares in tourixm related businesses. 

Then as mentioned it is a media issue. I would subscribe to all allegations if targeted to the international media. But not for the embassies.

Two good restaurants down south of Bangkok

Because we live in the south of Bangkok we don't visit much the fancy restaurants in downtown. Silom is terra incognita for me, and Thonglor only know for the Smitiveij hospital.
But we have some nice places in Samut Prakan as well. One is a recently opened local garden style steak restaurant next to the BTS Bearing station, on Lasalle Street. They are only open in the evening hours, and serve just a few dishes: pork, beef, fish and chicken steak in different styles and with a few side dishes like fried eggs, french fries, sausages and chicken nuggets. Only beer available is Leo in a can. A steak is about 60 Baht, comes with french fries and salad, so this is a good deal.

If you are more into vegetarian food, I recommend a vegan restaurant on Skrinakarin road. It is opposite Big C, right before you enter the flyover. They have vegetarian food buffet style where pick the dishes and pay per dish. They are between 30 and 50 Baht per dish. You can sit there in the restaurant open only at day time on weekdays, or buy the food for take away. The restaurant also sells mock meat and other vegetarian food you can use for cooking at home. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Marketing in Thailand

I am always interested  in marketing and advertising. It is interesting to see how Asian markets work in this field. When I lived in Vietnam I blogged about the quite noisy promotions there and that scientific research proves that this is not leading to more sales.
Thailand still has presenters/promoters shouting in microphones while nobody is listening, but I guess its is more a "doesn/t hurt either"-effect rather than poper reserach if this really triggers sales.
What is quite obvious here is the use of a handful celebrities. They advertise everything, from chicken essence to sausages to IKEA.
I am wondering if this really works. You use testimonials because people are identifying themself with this star, and you hope they will do the same with your brand or product. But if this hero sells everything, he or she can't simpy stand for one brand. Nothing hurts more if someone sees your ad with a testimonial and says "oh, I know him from the chicken product".
So my theory is that Thai advertisers do what most Thai businesses do: don't take a risk and just copy the others. 

Yet, someone at Big C was apparently allowed to do a little bit of innovation. 

I was waiting for the BTS when I saw the shiny new sliding doors with advertising next to it. Although the screen resolutiin is quite cheap, the Big C ad caught me. They were advertising products, and added a QR code to it. So, if you stand there and wait for the train, you get some suggestions of what to buy later and an easy way to at least save it to your phone.  I didn't have time enough to use the QR code, so ii wasnt sure waht kind of action it triggeres, but it looks from the ad that it starts the Big C app. If so, it's genius: Buy it at the point of advertising, and when you arrive home it is delivered. And I am pretty sure if people has started the app they will even buy more.

Did anyone tried it out already? Please let me know how it works, and if you have any other interesting advertising or marketing show cases to share...

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Protesters and customers

These people are in queue for.... no, not voting. They want to buy Gerretts popcorn. It is totally overpriced and nothing special, but it's a foreign brand, so it's a must have for the urban people. Later they may have a walk through the walking street behind what is actually a blockade by protesters. It doesn't look serious in Thailand as long as there is a queue for popcorn it seems. But the problem is there and it's serious: The state is in deep crisis. Sales dropped at all shopping malls and in areas where the protesters where blocking streets. Hotels are empty, Tourist arrivals are down, automobile industry sends warning, GDP growth will be lower then expected. And less and less government institutions are working anymore. Government can't govern anymore, has basically no control over police and of course not military. Can't even pay debts anymore. This is far from over... as a foreigner, it might be actually a good idea to get some popcorn, switch on TV and twitter and watch the events from your sofa.

From tetrapak to floor mats

Cheap solution. Smart vendor too. Win win. Only democracy is the loser.

Baked potatoes with double cheese

At Santa's MBK ground floor. Tasty and cheap, 85 baht.