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World Wide Fund for Nature Lends Financial Support to
"Green" Thai Hotels in Effort to Aid Tourism Slump

By Chadamas Chinmaneevong, Bangkok Post, ThailandMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jul. 24, 2009--Cash-strapped Thai hoteliers with good green credentials will soon qualify for soft loans from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to help them survive the tourism slump.

The fund is offering loans worth a total of 30 million for hotel operators who are members of the Green Leaf Foundation and have been certified for environmentally friendly projects, said Prakit Chinamourphong, the president of the Thai Hotels Association (THA).

The association will co-ordinate with the WWF on the programme and Kasikornbank will help arrange the financing.

"The loans from WWF offer new hope for local hoteliers after many of them have faced disappointment dealing with the long process of obtaining loans from the government's 2-billion-baht fund for SME operators," he said yesterday.

To date, 83 tourism SME operators have received approval for the government loans but only five have actually received money totalling 23.5 million baht.

Mr Prakit said that WWF representatives talked with THA executives last week and outlined the offer to help with low-interest loans. The rate is not finalised but is expected to be three percentage points below local bank minimum lending rates (MLR), with a maximum repayment term of seven years. Hotel operators will be able to obtain the loans by January 2010.

"I think it is a win-win situation because if Thai hotel operators seriously focus on the environment, it will be good for them in the future because many international tourists, especially from Europe, are now very concerned about this issue," said Mr Prakit.

WWF (formerly known as the World Wildlife Fund) is the world's largest nature conservation organisation. It works in 100 countries and is supported by 1.2 million members in the United States and close to 5 million globally.

Mr Prakit said hotel operators can still apply for the government loans through the Government Savings Bank in addition to the Small and Medium Enterprise Bank. The application period has been extended to September next year. But the THA has yet to finalise details with the government.

The hotel business continues to struggle because of the global travel slump and the spread of H1N1 influenza.

In June, average hotel occupancy in Bangkok was 47 percent, up from 43 percent in the same period last year. Phuket was 39 percent, down from 57 percent, Phung-nga 12 percent, down from 14 percent, and Krabi only 18 percent, off from 20 percent. Pattaya's occupancy rate was 34 percent, compared with 50 percent and Hua Hin and Cha-am hotels had a rate of 35 percent, down from 43 percent. Chiang Mai dropped to 28 percent from 36 percent in June last year.

The government should help hotels that cater to foreign tourists by letting them sell alcoholic drinks on Buddhist holidays, said Mr Prakit.


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