The beleaguered Thailand Elite Card project is to be taken off the backs of taxpayers, with the cabinet deciding to sell its operator to a private company in an auction.
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Even those rich enough to have bought a Thailand Elite Card are too embarrassed to talk about it. And even after it was put on the market a year ago with overt government backing – including the imprimatur of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra – not even the government bodies responsible for the card want to talk about it now.
Launched with great fanfare ahead of Thailand’s hosting of last October’s Apec (Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation) summit, the card confers exclusive benefits such as discounts on spas, a fast-track line at airport check-in and business introductions for “VIP foreigners who have high purchasing power” and want to buy into what promotional materials say is the world’s first `countrywide country-club”.
List of the Membership Benefits granted “for life” by the former Elite Card scheme
Members are entitled to special privileges which cover multiple services provided by both the Thai Government Sector as well as Private Sector. These include special assistance regarding investment opportunities and investment privileges reserved for Members only.
* Special visa privileges for indefinite stay and multiple entries.
Perhaps the most important and attractive benefits attached to Thailand Elite membership are the enhanced immigration and visa privileges. Membership confers the right to stay in the Kingdom virtually indefinitely, with five year renewable multiple entry visas issued to all members – as well as renewable 90-day extendable stays without the usual need to leave the country. In addition, Elite Personal Assistant in Bangkok will be available to facilitate you when performing fast track immigration at Thai Immigration Office.
ARRIVING & DEPARTING*
Elite Assistants to assist you off international flights
* Fast Track Immigration in exclusive Member Welcome Lounge
* Business class check-in and lounge access even on economy flights
Membership privileges begin the second you reach Thailand. Every time you step off an international flight into the Kingdom at Bangkok airport, dedicated Elite Assistants will greet you at the air bridge. An electric car will transport you to your connecting flight, or whisk you to the exclusive Elite Welcome Lounge. Here, your Fast Track immigration formalities will be speedily processed, without the need for you to pass through normal immigration channels. Also, at Phuket and Chiang Mai airports, fast track immigration formality and limousine transfer will be provided.
* Complimentary return airport transfers to your home or hotel for every international flight
When you fly, Elite treatment extends beyond the airport terminal. Thailand Elite membership entitles you to free return transfers between airports in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket and your hotel or residence in those cities – for every international flight you take.
UPGRADED TRAVEL EXPERIENCES
* Star Alliance Gold benefits
* Exclusive flight discounts and extra tickets negotiated for Thailand Elite members
Thailand Elite comes with many airport privileges. The privileges extend to after takeoff, too. As a Thailand Elite member, you’ll be eligible for Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus Gold membership, qualifying you for access to Star Alliance Gold airport lounges in Thailand and throughout the world. In case Thailand Elite members are not departing the Kingdom with Thai Airways or Star Alliances, Louise Tavern Lounge can be used instead. Your membership also establishes priority for upgrades on all Thai and Star Alliance flights according to seat availability. In addition, you’ll be eligible for extra baggage allowances, mileage redemption and one free upgrade every two years.
(Benefits relating to Royal Orchid membership are of course at the discretion of Thai Airways.) In addition to Royal Orchid Plus benefits, you’ll enjoy additional Thai Airways benefits exclusive to Thailand Elite: whenever you purchase one full-price first or business class ticket, you’ll receive one companion ticket free of charge. Also, 25% discounts on all Thai domestic routes will be yours to take advantage of throughout the year.
A BASE IN THE CITY
* Club membership at Bangkok’s best executive and fitness club
It’s important to have your own base in Thailand from which to operate. A place where you can meet clients and associates for meetings and discussions, close important deals, invite friends and colleagues for a meal, a drink and a cigar, or simply use fitness and other leisure facilities when you have the time. With Thailand Elite, when you’re in Bangkok, your own club is at your disposal. Enjoy full membership usage rights and access at one of Bangkok’s premier clubs: Pacific City Club, in central Sukhumvit Road, with a full range of facilities and services for business and pleasure. Restaurants, meeting rooms, business and conference centers, gym
OPEN FOR BUSINESS
* Essential networking opportunities with business and government
Thailand is one of Asia’s most booming markets. Make the most of networking opportunities with exclusive seminars & meetings with top business executives and government officers from BOI, SET, DEP and other ministries and agencies. And get essential contacts, information and news about investment opportunities during meetings with government ministers, Thai businesspeople, and business consultants.
IN THE PINK
Complimentary annual health check at Thailand’s best world class hospitals
The best of the best of Thailand’s hospitals have been selected as Thailand Elite partners. As a Thailand Elite member, you’ll be perfectly situated to take advantage of the excellent quality of medical facilities in Thailand, with a free annual medical check up at selected international standard hospitals.
THE ASSURANCE OF INSURANCE.
* Two million baht coverage against unforeseen events
Thailand Elite membership automatically covers you for personal accidents while in Thailand, with two million baht coverage against unforeseen events. So you’ll have the peace of mind to get the most out of your Thailand Elite benefits.
* Complimentary green fees at Thailand’s best golf courses
Thailand Elite gives members access and membership privileges, with complimentary green fees, at Thailand’s best golf clubs. Suddenly, there’s no need to join a golf club in Thailand: Thailand Elite membership offers the same benefits as individually joining these forty clubs. Play a different 18 holes each day – and sharpen your golfing skills by playing different courses all the time.
SPA TREATS & TREATMENTS
* Complimentary spa treatments at Thailand’s leading spas
Thailand Elite membership confers the right to spa treatments of your choice, subject to menus at individual spas, at some of the very best treatment centers in Thailand. Members can visit any one to enjoy a range of complimentary spa schemes, and take advantage of one of the greatest aspects of life in the Kingdom.
RECOGNITION AT RECEPTION
* Upgraded welcomes at Thailand’s best hotels
As a Thailand Elite member, you’ll be the recipient of special greetings at Thailand’s best hotels, as well as welcome garlands and premium refreshments upon arrival. You’ll have access to VIP check-in and checkout, as well as arrival gifts and automatic room upgrades. Daily newspapers, priority preferred seating and reservations in restaurants and other hotel venues are among other things you can look forward to, according to individual hotels’ Elite packages. Available at The Oriental, Banyan Tree Bangkok, Dhara Dhevi, Shangri-la, InterContinental, Bangkok Marriott Resort & Spa, Dusit Hotels & Resorts, Pimalai Resort & Spa, and Marriott Resort & Spa.
THE BEST TABLE IN THE HOUSE
* Priority restaurant booking
Thai food is one of the world’s greatest cuisines, while Thailand is home to some of the world’s best restaurants of every description: from home-grown Thai, to superb authentic Chinese and Japanese, to exquisite Italian and French restaurants run by great chefs and professional restaurateurs who have made Thailand their home. Of course, the Thailand Elite selection includes only the very best. Use your Thailand Elite membership to take advantage of priority reservations and enhanced service at selected dining establishments throughout Bangkok and other major cities and resorts.
Private investment in Thailand has been subdued in the past three years due to uncertainty about the political situation.
In 2006-2008 investment grew by an average of 2.7 percent a year (compared with real GDP growth of 4.3 percent on average), down from 14.8 percent during 2003-2005. This earlier retrenchment of investment has dampened the impact of the financial crisis, most notably on foreign direct investment (FDI). While little new FDI is expected, there has been no rush to exit from foreign investors. Growth of private investment in 2008 came mainly from Thai investors, as gross FDI inflows declined from 2007 levels. Private investment is expected to contract 5 percent in 2009 as capacity utilization remains low (around 50 percent). However, growth could resume in the fourth quarter on the back of increased public investment. Public investment has been sluggish in Thailand since the 1998 crisis, but is expected to increase in 2009 given increased political stability and the political imperative to respond to the slowdown in the export sector. The share of public investment in real GDP averaged only 5.7 percent during 2004-2008 compared more than 10 percent before the 1998 crisis. In 2008, public investment contracted by nearly 5 percent as a result of political uncertainties, which delayed investment decisions. Public investment is projected to grow at 7 percent in 2009 as the implementation of large infrastructure projects step up.
With unemployment on the rise, the number of people living under the poverty line will likely increase. Employment opportunities for workers in the urban informal sector, such as contract workers in manufacturing, in construction, and in tourism are shrinking, and it is unclear if they can go back to agriculture. As the government plans another economic stimulus program, considerations should be given to measures that will boost employment and specifically target these workers.
The Thai government announced an economic stimulus program totaling 117 billion baht ($3.34 billion). The program included a host of short-term measures to boost household consumption and assist lower-income families. The government is now preparing a second stimulus package worth 1.6 trillion baht ($45 billion). Among other initiatives, this package focuses on public investment in infrastructure projects, which the government hopes will help create 1.6 million jobs. “The infrastructure investments, if implemented, will help generate growth and improve Thailand’s competitiveness,” said World Bank. “However, it is worth noting that financing for infrastructure has been available for the past few years. What has suppressed investment was not funding, but rather political and institutional constraints.” While the impact on the real sector has been larger than expected, the global crisis has not shaken the Thai financial sector. The World Bank attributed this to Thailand’s strong macroeconomic fundamentals; low external debt coupled with high international reserves; and a sound financial sector, which has undergone a series of reforms following the 1997 crisis.