H.E. Weerasak Kowsurat, Minister of Tourism and Sports, delivered the following speech at the Thailand Briefing Networking Lunch, held on Monday, 5 November during the three-day World Travel Market (WTM) 2018 in London, UK.
Sawasdee khrap and good morning,
Distinguished guests and members of the media,
Welcome to the Thailand Briefing Networking Lunch. Thank you for your support and for sparing your valuable time to be with us. Thailand is again proud to participate for the thirty-eighth consecutive year in the World Travel Market.
In fact, this year’s participation is particularly important for us. The relationship between the Thai people and the British people has risen to a new level in the wake of the help provided by British cave divers and experts in the rescue of our 13 Wild Boar football team in Tham Luang Cave. The bravery and care demonstrated by the British experts, as well as members of the rescue teams are held in the highest stead. The complex and sensitive operation mesmerised the world like nothing else, and was a testimony to what can be achieved when people of all nationalities and walks of life work together for a common good.
Ladies and gentlemen,
At the WTM this year, the Thai pavilion bears the theme of “Amazing Thailand (Eat Thai, Visit Thai)”. The focus of local Thai food is linked to travel in tourism destinations in Thailand.
Visitors to the Thai pavilion will also find other Thai exhibitors; such as, the Sports Authority of Thailand where visitors will find sports tourism products, handicrafts specially designed by the Support Arts and Crafts International Centre of Thailand, Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways and the winners of the TAT Start-Up Project. I think you will benefit enormously from meeting many of our emerging generation of entrepreneurs seeking to build new modes of travel based on ethical, responsible and sustainable practices.
Up until September this year, a total of 4.79 million arrivals were from Europe, this is an increase of 5.11 percent over the same period of 2017. We are projecting 6.63 million European visitors for the whole year.
Last year, Thailand welcomed more than 994,000 UK visitors. During January – September this year, over 714,000 (714,258) UK visitors have travelled to Thailand. We are projecting 985,000 visitor arrivals from the UK market. In the past five years, the spending per trip has grown by two percent per year. The average length of stay is roughly 17 days per person per visit.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Not only is this strong growth in tourism welcome.
However, we now have to prepare for the future in which there will be intense competition, intense change and intense internal pressure to respond in a positive and constructive way. I believe the following four principles will drive tourism forward in the years ahead. I have called on the entire Thai travel industry to sign up to them. 1) Reducing Inequalities and Disparities; 2) Continuingly aim at sustainability of the host city and community; 3) Generosity and Kindness, and 4) No Compromising on Safety.
Reducing inequalities and disparities is usually framed within the context of boosting earnings from tourism. However, it is more important to focus on the diversity of culture and the environment. Seriously addressing the two issues will help reduce the inequalities because many cannot buy back every damage. Just being a big economic sector does not necessarily make tourism more important than the environment and culture. It is more useful for tourism to be seen as “honourable” and “respectable” because that is what will enhance cooperation and people to people connections.
This year, TAT in partnership with Thai Airways International, Thai Smile Airways and the Krungthai Bank, came together to boost domestic travel to 55 less visited provinces. This impressive alliance launched many ‘Local Link’ tours with a dedicated e-payment gateway to promote Thailand’s emerging destinations. The ‘Local Link’ aims to improve the ratio of both domestic and foreign visitors between major cities versus those smaller ones.
In the same vein, we are working to promote tourist destination management to accommodate tourism for all.
TAT has launched new pilot routes in nine popular provinces to promote universal accessibility concepts.
The initiative is a direct result of the highly successful Thirty-sixth World Tourism Day, which was held in Bangkok two years ago. The nine selected provinces have continuously put in more and more universally designed infrastructure to launch the promotion.
Travelling should be more pleasant for everyone: little children, parents with baby pushers (car/ trolley), people in wheelchairs, and even the blind.
Rail transport in Thailand is also developing with plans to operate a high-speed railway to the Eastern provinces that will connect the three international airports, Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and U-Tapao Rayong-Pattaya and another line to Hua Hin in the southern part to facilitate business and tourism in the area.
This year, a new joint venture agreement has been signed between Thai Airways International and Airbus to establish a maintenance, repair and overhaul facility at the U-Tapao Rayong-Pattaya International Airport. This will create one of the most modern and extensive services in the Asia-Pacific region, bringing significant economic benefits for the aviation business in the country. We definitely hope that a newer design for seating in planes can be even more friendlier when travelling.
Another priority is to promote sustainability in the tourism industry.
We are very committed to develop a further understanding of environmental mindfulness among Thai and foreign tourists, and I encourage all to join us in the development of a sustainable tourism sector.
We are now the first Asian country to join the ‘Upcycling the Oceans’ clean-up effort’, a global initiative by the Ecoalf Foundation to help clean the oceans of debris and transform plastic trash into thread to make fashion fabric. TAT’s initial target areas of the ‘Upcycling the Oceans, Thailand’ include the East coast of Ko Samet in Rayong, in the Gulf of Thailand at Ko Tao, Surat Thani and the Andaman Sea of Phuket.
Meanwhile, plastic bags and styrofoam containers has been banned to entry into any of Thailand’s national parks or any zoo in the country for the first time starting four months ago.
TAT has also launched a ‘Travel Thailand in Style, Reduce Plastic Waste’ collaboration initiative with various stakeholders in a bid to cut tourism-related waste by up to 50 percent by 2020.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thailand has been voted the world’s Best Country for People by readers of Conde Nast Traveller UK in the 2018 Readers’ Travel Awards. These awards help to confirm what is widely known to be the biggest asset of the Thai people; our friendliness and hospitality. We will be doing more to enhance and promote this in the years ahead.
But most importantly, we are working to ensure safety standards industry-wide.
We are undertaking a sweeping overhaul of all the country’s safety and security measures relevant to the travel and tourism industry. A number of high-level meetings are taking place to coordinate measures and guidelines to strictly enforce the rules and regulations and ensure proper coordination among all the various entities. They will be communicated to the National Tourism Policy Board and the Cabinet to approve for further action by the relevant agencies.
In closing, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to give you a quick update on a few upcoming events that your guests and clients may find interesting.
- The Opening of Icon Siam at the Chao Phraya River in the heart of Bangkok will be held next week. The project will be a new innovative luxury landmark on the Chao Phraya River that shows us how the community charms can be combined together with a shopping complex.
- The Loi Krathong Festival 2018 will be held from 16 to 24 November nationwide. As part of TAT’s marketing campaign that focuses on secondary destinations, we will be mainly promoting eight of these destinations that are locally unique.
- New Year Countdown – Besides being held throughout the country in its typical splendour, TAT will hold this event in five destinations in the five regions of Thailand. These are: Chiang Rai in the North, Nakhon Phanom in the Northeast, Ratchaburi in the Central Region, Satun with its world renowned geopark in the South, and Sa Kaeo in the East.
- Next week, the new Michelin Guide Bangkok, Phuket and Phang Nga 2019 will be released. Phuket’s signature foods and diverse eating culture saw it become the first city not only in Thailand, but also the ASEAN region because in 2015 UNESCO put Phuket on the Creative Cities listing for its gastronomic delights.
- MotoGP World Championship; next October, Chang International Circuit at the Buri Ram Circuit. Last month, Thailand now join the exclusive list of MotoGP will continue host countries for next two more years since it has been the most attended Moto GP in the history. Motor sports has a big foundation in Thailand since we produce almost every brand of street vehicles known in the market.
The European and UK markets will continue to play a prominent role in our inbound tourism industry. There remains plenty of room for expansion of the tourism business, particularly as we collaborate to cater to the more specific segments and attract more repeat travellers and visitors from European cities.
Finally, I thank all of you for joining us here and for your ongoing support. No matter how much effort we put into promoting Amazing Thailand, we cannot succeed without you.