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Thailand gains from China’s outbound travel boom

Posted by pakin On January - 14 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

South Korea, Thailand, Japan and Taiwan are among the top five favourite destinations for Chinese travellers, which were numbered 109 million in 2015.

According to GfK’s analyses, by the start of November 2015, counting air and overnight visits, the number of Chinese travellers to South Korea showed an increase of 112 per cent since 2011. Thailand experienced an increase of 263 per cent, Japan by 157 per cent and Taiwan 54 per cent.

Hong Kong, which was the preferred destination for China’s outbound tourists up until 2013, saw a 37 per cent increase in the period.

“China’s outbound tourists remain strategic to Hong Kong and its businesses – but other destinations are jumping ahead in winning their favour. Destinations such as Hong Kong need to re-evaluate China’s new breed of young and independently-minded travellers, to understand how best to attract them and capitalize on the growth of China’s outbound tourism,” said Laurens van den Oever, global head of travel and hospitality research at GfK.

Since 2014, increasing numbers of China’s outbound tourists have been opting for other destinations that offer historical and cultural experiences, as well as shopping.

The analyses showed that last year China produced 109 million outbound tourists who spent a total of US$229 billion (approximately Bt8.2 trillion).

These statistics consolidate China’s position as one of the top global sources of tourists, in terms of both number of trips and money spent during international travel. At the same time, there have been profound changes in the behaviour of the typical Chinese traveller, with Chinese Millennials firmly established as the core drivers of China’s outbound tourism spending.

Europe remains the most popular destination for Chinese travelling outside of Asia, showing an increase of 97 per cent in the number of air and overnight visits in the last four years. This is followed by North America (up 151 per cent) and the Middle East (up 177 per cent). Africa remains the destination least visited by Chinese tourists – but with signs that this could be changing, as visits have risen by 306 per cent since 2011.

According to GfK data, half (50 per cent) of China’s outbound travellers are aged 15-29 years old – the “millennials” group – while over a third (37 per cent) are aged 30-44 and 10 per cent are 45-59.

An annual study from GfK shows that Chinese Millennials are more ambitious than their predecessors, aged 50 and above – and more hedonistic in their willingness to spend money to indulge and pamper themselves. They are also slightly less price sensitive, being the biggest purchasers of luxury goods in Asia Pacific.

For destinations looking to attract this lucrative group, then, the ideal approach is to approach them not as ’tourists’ but as independent travellers who will respond to opportunities to plan personalised trips.

SAN FRANCISCO – Bridgestone raised its bid for US auto service chain Pep Boys, a merger that would catapult it to the ranks of top players in the US car maintenance business.

Bridgestone, already the world’s largest tire maker, increased its offer for the US company to $17.00 per share, from its last offer of $15.00.

The boosted bid brings the total value of the deal to about $947 million, according to a press release from the two companies.

Through the merger, Bridgestone would add Pep Boys’ 800 US locations, and car maintenance services, to its own 2,200 US outlets.

“In addition to our long and successful histories in this industry, Pep Boys and Bridgestone share a common vision for the future –- to continue to build upon this 100-year foundation to form an even stronger company, one that is renowned for its commitment to being the most trusted provider of automotive service in every neighborhood it serves,” said Stu Crum, president of Bridgestone Retail Operations.

Bridgestone’s sweetened bid leaves open the possibility of a counter offer from activist investor Carl Icahn, who reportedly wants to combine the retail sales side of Pep Boys with his Auto Plus car parts network of 2,300 outlets.

Beauty in shades of blue

Posted by pakin On November - 19 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Kamuimisaki cape at the edge of Hokkaido’s Shakotan Peninsula offers a wonderful view of the sea

REACHING THE tip of Kamuimisaki cape on the north-western edge of the Shakotan Peninsula in Hokkaido, can only be achieved on foot and involves walking carefully along a narrow path that looks and feels like a mountain ridge, rising as high as 80 metres above sea level. Buffeted by the wind, it takes me a full 20 minutes to reach the cape, which looks out over the crystal-clear Sea of Japan, a beautiful shade of azure that has become known as “Shakotan blue”.

From this viewpoint, the horizon appears slightly curved at both ends testifying to what we already know – that the Earth is round. And even through it took about an hour from the centre of Shakotan by car, the spectacle is well worth the trip.

The sea offers not only this impressive view but also a variety of seafood. The town is famous for nama uni don (raw sea urchin roe atop a bowl of rice). I was there, however, just after the fishing season, which is limited to June through August.

Even so, a Japanese restaurant I visited for lunch still offered steamed sea urchin roe, and I enjoyed the kaisendon sashimi bowl decorated lavishly with northern shrimp and seasonal salmon roe. The sea urchin roe melted in my mouth, and I could taste its subtle sweetness.

Forests account for 80 per cent of the town. The rains that fall on the highlands are soaked up in the mountain areas, and the nutrient-laden rivers flow into the sea. This process is believed to help the growth of seafood and seaweed.

In 2010, Japan Tobacco Inc began a 10-year project called JT Forest Shakotan to help the conservation of these mountains. JT subsidises the costs of forest management within the reach of three rivers running through the town, including the Bikunigawa.

“Ill-maintained forests are recovering,” Hideki Matsui, the 68-year-old mayor of Shakotan tells me.

“I want to scientifically prove that mountains foster the ocean.”

Experts on forests, rivers and seas have already started investigations in their various fields.

“I hope they will collect enough data soon so that we can properly explain to children, who will be responsible for the next generation,” Matsui continues.

Forests not only nurture the abundant sea, but also are helping the reconstruction of areas hit by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. About 2,000 trees including Japanese larches were cut down, sent to disaster-hit areas such as Miyagi Prefecture and used as foundations for temporary housing units in May 2011. The workings of nature help human beings, showing the importance of protecting nature.

The next day, I visited a traditional-style fishermen’s lodge in the centre of the town that was originally built for those involved in the herring fishing industry, once the pride of the town. The streets are littered with the houses, now abandoned, that once accommodated fishing boat owners, their families and their crews.

In 2008, residents in the town began activities to preserve these houses as sightseeing spots. Local volunteers including Noriichi Bessho, 67, renovated the lodge and named it Yamashime Banya.

A public interest corporation subsidised the costs of renovation such as for replacing the flooring.

The facility was opened to the public until late September, hosting events such as shamisen lute performances. It is currently closed in preparation for further restoration work, but should reopen around May next year.

“I feel regret if tourists just eat sea urchin roe and leave town. I want them to know the history of Shakotan,” Bessho says.

Japan’s professor wins Nobel Prize in Medicine

Posted by pakin On October - 6 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Satoshi Omura, a distinguished professor emeritus of Kitasato University, has won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with William Campbell for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites, Sweden’s Karolinska Institute announced Monday.

According to the institute, Omura and Campbell — a research fellow emeritus at Drew University in the United States — discovered a new drug called Avermectin, the derivatives of which have radically lowered the incidence of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, and been effective against an expanding number of other parasitic diseases.

Omura and Campbell won the prize along with Youyou Tu of China, who was honored for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against malaria.

The institute praised the winning discoveries as having “provided humankind with powerful new means to combat these debilitating diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people annually. The consequences in terms of improved human health and reduced suffering are immeasurable.”

Omura, 80, is the 23rd Nobel recipient for Japan, and follows last year’s win by three scientists — Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura — in Physics. He is also the first Japanese to win a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine since Kyoto University Prof. Shinya Yamanaka in 2012.

The prize money of 8 million Swedish kronor (US$959,000) will be divided among the recipients, with one-fourth going to Omura. The awards ceremony will be held in Stockholm on December 10.

During his career, which has spanned half a century, Omura discovered more than 450 unique bioactive compounds and clarified their structures.

Born in Nirasaki, Yamanashi Prefecture, in 1935, Omura graduated from Yamanashi University with a bachelor of science degree in 1958. He received a master’s degree at the Graduate School of Science at Tokyo University of Science in 1963.

Omura earned a doctoral degree in pharmaceutical sciences in 1968 from the University of Tokyo, and a doctoral degree in chemistry from Tokyo University of Science in 1970.

Omura discovered antibiotics derived from microorganisms in soil and contributed to the development of medicine in a wide variety of fields. He has been especially praised for saving many people from epidemics of parasitic diseases in Africa and other tropical areas.

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