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Thailand's growth rate 'likely below 1%'

Thailand's economic growth rate is likely to be less than one per cent for 2014, while the 2015 target of four percent looks increasingly difficult to attain, due to a weak global economy according to Kasikorn Research Center.

The think tank's managing director, Charl Kengchon, said, "What we are most concerned about is next year's growth figure since 4% is challenging and it is still uncertain whether we can achieve that growth rate."

According to Deputy Prime Minister MR Pridiyathorn Devakula's forecast, Growth is likely to have picked up in the forth quarter of 2014 to reach as high as 2.5 per cent to three per cent, but this still means that the overall average growth rate for all of 2104 would likely come in at below the one per cent mark.

Finance Minister Sommai Phasee admitted that slow growth in 2014 was due in a large part to low exports and later than expected public spending. Lower commodity prices have arguably contributed to the lower growth also. With exports in mind, Kasikorn Research Center expects that this sector will likely have contracted by 0.1 per cent during 2014, whilst maintaining a 3.5 per cent to four percent GDP growth target for next year.

Meanwhile the National Economic and Social Development Board reduced its economic growth forecast for all of 2014 to just one per cent, but expected growth prospects for 2015 to stand at 3.5 per cent to four percent.

Mr. Charl said, "Inflation and economic growth in a forward-looking view could be lower than expected, so it might be an appropriate time for the committee to lower the benchmark interest rate because nothing can be done further if the US Federal Reserve raises its fed funds rate."

Yet he also mentioned that the Bank had to be careful since there was a backdrop of rising household debt already.

Budget Carrier Thai Lion Air expands

The budget carrier, Thai Lion Air has taken delivery of two new jets in its bid to increase its footprint in the Thai market. Thai Lion Air is part of Indonesia's Lion Air group and its foray into the Thai market comes amid rising demand for services, even though Thai Air Asia and the flag carrier already operate many routes.

At the start of 2015 Thai Lion Air will open five new routes from its base at Don Mueang airport to destinations such as Krabi, Phuket, Udon Thani and Surat Thani as well as a route operating from Hat Yai to Udon Thani. The two new jets are Boeing 737-900ERs, which will give the airline a total of six planes.

The airline was also considering regional expansion with flights between Thailand and Southern China earmarked as possible in 2015.

The airline already flies daily between Bangkok and Jakarta and has seven flights per day between Bangkok and Chiang Mai and Bangkok and Hat Yai, all of which will continue.

The expansion of both international and domestic flights should increase tourist numbers in Pattaya as tourists find low cost ways to travel around Thailand between various resorts.

Medical tourists choose Thailand

With procedures in Thai hospitals, whether for heart surgery or for cosmetic surgery being US-accredited, Thailand is attracting an ever growing number of medical tourists who come to save money on top quality medical procedures and also enjoy a holiday at the same time. Thailand is now the number one destination for medical tourism according to consulting firm Patients Beyond Borders, who say that as many as 1.8 million medical tourists came to the Kingdom in 2013.

Relaxing and recovering in a hotel room, Ms. Topliss, a 48-year-old executive chef, commented on the breast-enhancement and cosmetic dentistry that she had just had done saying, "The whole thing, airfares and hotel included, cost me AU$15,000 (428,000 baht), when back home, it would have been twice as much." She added, "And the surgeon did such a good job. It's like the clock has been turned back 20 years. What's more, I'm having a wonderful two-week holiday as well. Even the hospitals are like five-star hotels."

Government statistics show that as much as US$4.7 billion was spent by medical tourists in the previous year, marking Thailand as a preferred destination in South East Asia, over Malaysia and Singapore.

Patients Beyond Borders founder Josef Woodman said, ""While the US is still first choice for the ultra-rich, Thailand is unquestionably No 1 among everyone seeking affordable care.”

With Pattaya boasting some of the best hospitals in the Kingdom, medical tourism has undoubtedly made its mark on local tourist industry. Hospitals such as the Bangkok Pattaya Hospital in the north of Pattaya attract an ever-larger number of medical tourists seeking out the most professional care.

After treatment patients can enjoy five star hotel accommodation for as little as 3,500 baht per night. The average stay of medical tourists in hotels in Bangkok and Pattaya is on average ten nights, longer than many non-medical guests.