Industry leaders come together for Thailand’s tourism future
Local airline, hotel, and travel industry leaders have suggested ideas to improve Thailand’s ability to compete in the growing and evolving global tourism market.
At the tourism conference “Imagine Thailand 2020” hosted by the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), representatives of the tourism industry made several proposals which are aimed at bringing in more tourists as well as increasing Thailand’s tourist destination competitiveness in the long term.
One of the suggestions was by Patee Sarasin, CEO of budget airline Nok Air, urged the government to make Thailand a completely duty free, making it attractive for shopping which should attract a lot more visitors who are coming to spend money at local businesses. “Some people might be against this idea, but this is the right way to attract people to come and shop here,” he said. He also commented that all stakeholders could achieve their targets if they focused on the right markets.
Also on the panel, William Heinecke, chairman and CEO of Minor International Hotel Group, said Thailand could remain an attractive destination for international tourists because Thailand has wide range of attractions and ammenities. However, he added, being able to fly into Thailand directly to major tourist destinations such as Pattaya and Hua Hin would create more demand and should be considered to reduce tourists’ travel time. Pattaya’s closest airport U-tapao and Hua Hin Airport in the west should be upgraded to international airports so that tourists can fly direct to those areas without going to Bangkok, he said. Tourists from key markets such as Singapore and Hong Kong currently were taking more than four hours or maybe half a day to reach Pattaya and Hua Hin, which is far too long.
Heinecke said Indonesia and the Philippines suffered from poor airport infrastructure and Thailand should learn from their failures.
Kanok Abhiradee, former president of Thai Airways International, said the country should not ignore low season, as that period could still be promoted to lure foreign visitors. He said that in previous years THAI did not promote low season benefits and it cost the airline and Thailand many passengers and tourists. He urged tourism leaders to rethink low season and turn that slow period into an opportunity by offering attractive packages and promotions.
According to PATA statistics, the top tourist sources for Thailand last year were China, Malaysia, Russia, Japan, Laos, South Korea, India, the United Kingdom, Singapore and Australia. A total of 24.7 million tourists visited Thailand with estimated total spending of Bt1.13 trillion.
Domestic travel totaled 136.2 million trips with spending of Bt680 billion.
The revenue earned from foreign visitors in January this year soared to Bt124 billion, an increase of 7.84 per cent from the same month last year of Bt115 billion.
The Department of Tourism estimates that Thailand will receive a total of 29 million tourists by the end of 2015, with expected foreign exchange earnings of Bt1.4 trillion. Domestically, Thai tourists will have 139 trips, with estimated spending of Bt800 billion.