H.E. General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of Thailand, delivered opening remarks at the 2017 WTTC Global Summit on 26 April.
His Excellency Mr. David Cameron, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain,
Dr. Taleb Rifai, the Secretary- General, World Tourism Organization,
Mr. Gerald Lawless, Chairman, World Travel and Tourism Council,
Deputy Prime Minister & Ministers,
Distinguished speakers, businessmen, delegates and participants,
Members of the media,
It is a great honor for me to be with all of you this morning to preside over the opening of the 2017 Global Summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council or WTTC. I am also proud that Thailand has been selected to host one of the world’s most important international tourism conferences. This reinforces Thailand’s readiness to host global conferences in addition to its potential to be a leading travel and tourism hub in Asia and the world.
This summit is a global body that brings together all major players in the travel and tourism sector as well as tourism boards worldwide to exchange views and discuss various issues of common interest. It is an opportunity for them to speak with one voice to governments and international bodies on regulatory issues impacting worldwide travel and tourism flow in order to identify practicable guidelines and measures that will be indispensable in realizing the potential of the sector. At present, this sector is one of the largest business employers in the world, hiring as many as 292 million jobs and contributing 10.2% to the world’s Gross Domestic Product.
I take a great interest in the summit’s main theme of “Transforming Our World”. As we all know, the world is changing at a surprising pace under the influence of globalization and geo-political factors. This situation means the international community and the United Nations have come under pressure in their endeavor to strive for economic development, social progress as well as an upgrade of travel and tourism activities in both numbers and quality.
At present, mobile technology is an integral part of our lives, and it has reached an unprecedented level. Technology such as Virtual Reality, Drone and Mobile Data has become an effective marketing tool to promote the tourism industry. All stakeholders in the tourism sector should realize of its potential and use digital technology to match the behavior of the new generation of consumers thanks to easy accessibility, fast and fun perspectives. At the opposite end, new measures, supported by high technology, have been introduced to counter the threat of terrorism and international organized crime. This means that today’s travelers and tourists face unprecedented strict background and security checks. These developing scenarios demand the need to find a healthy balance between freedom of travel and safety.
With respect to Thailand, tourism revenue has risen consistently, growing 21% in 2015 to 2.26 trillion Baht or approximately $66.5 billion. In 2016 despite unfavorable world economic conditions, Thai tourism sector registered an 11% growth to 2.52 trillion Baht, or about $74 billion, making it the country’s largest export. Insofar this year, the accumulated expenditure in products and services invested in the tourism sector has reached 4.6 trillion Baht or about $131 billion and this sector has created nearly 14 million jobs in the country. As an important hub of international and regional travel and tourism, Thailand has a pivotal role in connecting and supporting tourism in the ASEAN region at bilateral and multilateral levels.
To this end, the government has placed a great emphasis on “Thailand Plus One” policy which has been implemented since 2014. The objectives of this strategy are to stimulate and attract fresh injection of funds from international investors, who are keen to use Thailand as a regional base to tap into the ASEAN Economic Community market which has over 620 million consumers. Thailand’s state-of-art land, air and water transportation networks are well-known to many, including foreign investors, entrepreneurs and tourists, while its strategic geographical location at the heart of mainland Southeast Asia region offers a convenient connectivity to its neighbors.
The success of Thailand Plus One policy will be instrumental to collaborative promotions and supports designed to increase connectivity with our neighbors in the area of commercial, transports and logistics, communications, labor movement as well as tourism.
Thailand and our ASEAN friends have a common stance in their prioritizing of tourism industry development. Together, member countries have worked to rid the industry of obstacles to tourist movement as they aim to turn the region into a Single Tourist Destination for travelers and tourists from all corners of the world. To mark the Association of Southeast Asia Nations or ASEAN’s 50th anniversary in 2017, we have come together to promote ASEAN-wide tourism under the slogan of “Visit ASEAN@50”. It is also aimed at showcasing ASEAN’s unity in diversity to international tourists. It is expected that this campaign will draw over 121 million tourists to ASEAN, and generate as much as 29 trillion Baht or $828 million in revenue to member countries.
Furthermore, ASEAN has strengthened intra-regional connectivity network, for example, the development of Kunming-Singapore rail transport network which will be completed in 2020; and the development of ASEAN highway to link Thailand, Myanmar, Lao PDR, and Vietnam in order to make Thailand become a travel and tourism hub of the region.
I am confident that everyone involved with this summit have worked enthusiastically and tirelessly so that this gathering will achieve its objective of leveraging the opportunity and availability of all existing travel and tourism channels as we together seek to transform our world towards a positive direction, which will contribute to a wealth distribution to all concerned and improved quality of life of people worldwide. I wish the 2017 global summit to be successful in achieving all its objectives.
On behalf of the Royal Thai Government, the Thai people and Thai entrepreneurs in the travel and tourism industry, I wish to extend a warmest welcome to all participants. I hope that you will take this opportunity to know and understand Thailand in many aspects including its people, charming tradition and culture, exquisite architecture, and delightful food. Particularly, the spirit of Thai hospitality and generosity will leave all of our guests a memorable visit. and I hope we will welcome all of you, your family and friends again in Thailand.