B135bn gamble on casino resort - Wednesday 19th of October 2005

A Thai-Japanese joint venture yesterday announced a 10-year, 135-billion-baht development plan to build a floating Phuket Bay International City. Umezawa & Thai Partners Architect Co wants to develop an international convention and exhibition centre and ``Good Luck Island, a resort and entertainment complex offering casino games, according to project documents.

Gambling remains illegal in Thailand although authorities are considering limited legalisation of casinos to help boost the tourism industry.

Umezawa & Thai Partners is one of 19 companies that signed partnership agreements yesterday with Thai Longstay Management Corporation (TLM), a joint venture between the government and private sector to help support government plans to attract long-stay residents to Thailand.

Pol Col Ruamnakorn Tubtimthongchai, the TLM chief executive officer, said Japan-based Umezawa, a real-estate developer, would be a key player in efforts to build up the Thai long-stay industry.

According to project documents, Phuket Bay International City is expected to be completed by 2015, with 20 million tourists visiting the complex per year.

The floating resort city will consist of five projects: the spaceship-shaped Anabasis resort, the lotus-shaped Marina City resort, The Tower resort and office buildings complex, Sports World with international sport facilities, and the comet-shaped Good Luck Island.

Among the other 19 companies and agencies signing contracts with the TLM yesterday are: Advanced Info Service, RNT Television, Northern Heritage Golf and Spa, KC Property, World Travel Service, Bank of Ayudhya and the Thai Hotels Association.

TLM was set up by the cabinet in 2001 with 25 million baht in capital. The Tourism Authority of Thailand holds 30% of the company, with Japanese investors 20%, One Asset Management 15% and private shareholders the remainder.

Pol Col Ruamnakorn said TLM had a three-year plan to build 100,000 units for long-stay visitors nationwide. Total investment for the programme, including the Phuket Bay International City, would exceed 200 billion baht.

TLMs partners will help ensure that long-stay visitors receive quality services when visiting Thailand.

Pol Col Ruamnakorn said 12 provinces would be designated as key long-stay destinations, with the Board of Investment expected to provide privileges for such investments in Bangkok, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Kanchanaburi, Surat Thani, Krabi, Phangnga, Phuket, Rayong, Chon Buri and Nakhon Ratchasima.

Private developers could also be brought in to build and operate long-stay facilities on land plots leased by TLM, he said.

TLM will also prepare service packages designed for retirees in Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Scandinavian countries, Germany, Italy, France and China.

Roadshows to six countries have already been held since the beginning of the month, Pol Col Ruamnakorn said.

He added that TLM expected to attract up to 100,000 visitors staying in Thailand for over one month by the end of the year. Tourism authorities project 13.4 million visitors to Thailand this year and 15.1 million next year

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