February 21, 2014 00:00 By Bamrung Amnatcharoenrit
Chaos raise doubts over card's stability
The prolonged political turbulence is hampering the efforts of troubled Thailand Privilege Card Co (TPC), operator of the luxury Elite Card, to promote itself overseas as potential foreign buyers doubt the card’s stability.
TPC president Apisit Chuenchompoo said there was no doubt the Elite Card’s image had been marred by the country’s political problems, especially after the government declared a state of emergency in Bangkok. This was undermining their confidence because the card is directly issued by the government.
TPC intends to sell 1,300 cards in its 2014 financial year, which started last October, via distribution agents. Apisit is not sure that its mission will be achieved at this difficult time. At worst, only 100 cards may be sold.
The longer the political row continues, the greater the impact will be. To date, 10 cards have been sold. However, he said there were 15 sales agents showing interest in distributing them. If they sign agreements with TPC, that will mean more than 2,000 cards could be sold this year.
The controversial card was established in 2003 by the prime minister at the time, Thaksin Shinawatra, with the aim of attracting affluent foreign tourists. It has offered privileges from visas to luxury services. So far it has been on a bumpy road filled with financial constraints. It is in struggle to seek new funding to improve its liquidity. So far, there are about 1,300 Elite Card members.
Apisit took the top post at TPC in October, and began a big effort to rebuild the card’s image abroad. He has sought distributors worldwide.
Yesterday, TPC signed an agreement to appoint Nusasiri, a listed housing developer, to help distribute the card, with a 500-card sales target.
Nusasiri will sell the card by including it in the price of a condominium unit, which sell for Bt3 million to Bt5 million, starting with a 30-square-metre condo. The firm has 800 units in total in two projects in the Ekamai and Kaset-Navamintra areas.
In general, the card itself is priced between Bt1 million and Bt2 million, depending on privileges included.
Visanu Thepcharoen, chief executive officer of Nusasiri, acknowledged that the ongoing political chaos was a key barrier to selling the Elite Card. If it does not end before April, it is most likely the sales target will not be achieved.
The firm has started to promote the card in Beijing. That city is considered a potential market because of its rising numbers of affluent Chinese and businesspeople. Many are looking for a country in which to establish a second home. More than 100 Chinese have showed an interest in the cards, but concern about Thailand’s political situation runs high.