Bangkok, 19 October, 2018 – More than 450 senior executives from public and private sector entities all over Thailand attended a summit conference called by Mr. Weerasak Kowsurat, Minister of Tourism and Sports, to discuss ways to reform Thai tourism with an emphasis on cleanliness, convenience and safety.
The meeting at the Dusit Thani Hotel was designed to help delegates exchange experiences and offer solutions on how to reform the standards of Thai tourism, remove obstacles and solve problems in the three priority areas. This has become a matter of urgent concern due to the impact on visitor arrivals, especially from China in the aftermath of the July 2018 boat accident in Phuket.
Mr. Weerasak, who chaired the meeting, created four groups to brainstorm specific topics, as follows:
- Thai Tourism Situation Group (17 persons); representing the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, Budget Bureau, Bank of Thailand, Association of Thai Travel Agents and Thai Hotels Association.
- Cleanliness Group (7 persons); representing the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Public Health.
- Convenience Group (15 persons); representing the Ministry of Transport and Communication, Aviation Department, Immigration Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of National Parks.
- Safety and Security Group (15 persons); Ministry of Defense, Royal Thai Army, Royal Thai Navy, Royal Thai Police.
In his comments to the delegates, Mr. Weerasak outlined the challenges facing tourism to Thailand, especially in relation to managing the growing numbers. Acknowledging the concern over the drop in visitors from China, Mr. Weerasak said that even the reduced number this year is still higher than the past arrival numbers, and would return to normal after confidence is restored.
The reformation plan developed by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports is designed to bring all parties to work together to solve the problems, Mr. Weerasak said, citing the need to focus on quality tourism and upgrade safety and security.
He said the government will step up its investment in all aspects of tourist safety and security, and support the private sector in upgrading the quality of products, services and facilities. All sectors should propose ideas to restore confidence not by creating more special offers and discounts bur rather by upgrading safety standards. The Chinese tourists today seek quality products and services, not low prices, the Minister said.
The government will also facilitate lending by financial institutions for the private sector to take similar measures. Mr. Weerasak noted that the Ministry of Finance is ready to support extension of low-interest-rate loans for tour operators.
Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn, Governor of Tourism Authority of Thailand said TAT will strive to revive tourism arrivals by the following three measures:
- Year-end 2018 Tourism Promotion: TAT will join travel agents, airlines and hotels to offer special promotion and packages in Thailand as well as participating in major Travel Exhibitions such as the China International Tourism Expo (CITM) and the International Luxury Tourism Mart in Shanghai.
- Public Relations and Image Enhancement: Conducting joint campaigns with Alibaba Group, setting up a Pre-Warning Travel Safety Co-operation System (an app designed specifically for Chinese tourists) and organising the Amazing Thailand Festival in areas under the responsibility of TAT China Offices.
- Confidence-building measures and tourism facilitation measures in cooperation with industry partners to address security and regulatory requirements: Many of these measures will focus on regulating marine tourism and working with the Royal Thai Navy to upgrade patrol boats and rescue teams. Other measures will include better control of health and hygiene standards at restaurants via certification and licensing from the Department of Health.
In January – September 2018, Thailand welcomed 28,541,887 visitors, up by 8.71% over the same period of 2017, according to preliminary figures tabulated by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports. Estimated visitor expenditure also rose significantly, up 10.95% to 1.49 trillion Baht. China topped the list with 8.37 million arrivals, followed by Malaysia (2.86 million), Korea (1.33 million), Lao PDR (1.29 million) and Japan (1.23 million).