Thailand Media Briefing
By Mr. Klissada Ratanapruk
Executive Director for ASEAN, South Asia and the South Pacific Region
“ASEAN: Together towards the Next Generation of Travel”
Wednesday, 15 January, 2020, 0900-0945 Hrs.
Bridex International Conference Centre, Brunei Darussalam
Selamat pagi, sawasdee khrap, and good morning members of the media, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
It is my pleasure to be here with you today in Brunei Darussalam, the Abode of Peace, and host of the 39thASEAN Tourism Forum. We would like to thank our Bruneian hosts for their excellent arrangements and compliment them for the positive turnout. The theme of “ASEAN: Together towards the Next Generation of Travel” perfectly complements the theme of “Advancing Partnership for Sustainability” used by Thailand during our term as the Chairman of ASEAN in 2019. I am happy to report that we had a highly successful 2019 with a number of forward looking agreements designed to strengthen ASEAN’s integration in many sectors ranging from education and health to tourism and finance. I will tell you a little more about one of its most important outcomes later in my presentation.
If you visit the Thailand pavilion, this year, we bear the theme of “Gastronomy Tourism Thailand” by presenting the content of the gastronomic journey – from Street Food to Michelin Star restaurants. The focus of local Thai food is linked to travelling to tourism destinations in Thailand. In total, the Thai pavilion at the ATF 2020 comprises seven exhibitors: the MIDA Hospitality Group, Katathani Collection of Resorts, Marriott – Bangkok – Hua Hin – Phuket, Movenpick BDMS Wellness Resort Bangkok, Novotel Phuket Vintage Park, Movenpick Myth Hotel Patong, Phuket Graceland Resort and Spa, and Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok.
Visitors to the Thai pavilion will also enjoy watching and tasting Thai traditional snacks; such as, Khanom Bueang (Thai crispy pancake), Khanom Khrok (Thai coconut milk pancake). Please do come over and enjoy them any time.
Overview of Thailand’s Tourism Situation
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me briefly inform you about the current tourism situation in Thailand.
We ended last year with a record breaking 39 million arrivals for the Thai tourism industry. Among this number, the ASEAN countries generated over 10 million arrivals to Thailand.
In 2020, TAT has set a growth target of 2.5 percent in arrivals. We also project an increase of four percent in arrivals specifically from the ASEAN market.
I am happy to say that, Brunei is one of Thailand’s important short-haul markets. Seventy percent of Bruneian visitors were repeat travellers. Their top activities were enjoying Thai food, massage and spa, visiting local communities and historical spots.
Thailand’s successful chairmanship of ASEAN in 2019
Last year, Thailand was honoured to be the chair-country of ASEAN. One of the main outcomes was the ASEAN Gastronomy Tourism Master Plan, which is designed to give a major boost to the combined appeal of the wonderful culinary delights of our 10 countries. If you are lovers of food tourism, you can well imagine the impact of pooling the strengths of all our wonderful ASEAN cuisine. The establishment of such a competitive advantage is one of the objectives of the Joint Declaration on Gastronomy Tourism issued by the ASEAN Tourism Ministers at the January 2018 ATF in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
In 2019, Thailand made the development of the ASEAN Gastronomy Tourism Master Plan as one of its key chairmanship objectives. This, soon to be made public plan, will see the establishment of expert networks related to gastronomy tourism from various fields, create competitions for outstanding gastronomy tourism cities, and undertake numerous other activities to give more global prominence to ASEAN gastronomy. I believe that this will be well within our objectives of achieving ASEAN integration, creating jobs and ensuring a fair distribution of income among the rural and agricultural communities of ASEAN. It will also create new markets for our diverse farm products.
Ladies and gentlemen,
When we travel, food becomes one of the most interesting topics to think about. Of course, gastronomy tourism is high on the Thai tourism promotion agenda. It can generate billions of dollars in revenue, according to the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), with international visitors to Thailand spending about 20 percent of their travel budget on food and beverage. In 2018, Thailand hosted the fourth UNWTO Forum on Gastronomy Tourism, the first country in Asia to do so.
The variety of cuisine in Thailand is always amazing. Thai food is famous all over the world with plenty of Thai restaurants worldwide ranging from simple takeout stalls to fine-dining restaurants. Indeed, the Thai economy has revolved around agriculture for centuries, well before tourism. As such, gastronomy tourism builds bridges with these two sectors together. Many Thai dishes also place great emphasis on nutritional ingredients including high-value herbs, which helps TAT enhance health and wellness tourism.
To highlight the variety of gastronomy tourism of the country, in 2017, TAT teamed up with century-old France-based Michelin well-known over the world for their restaurant star rating system. The partnership produced the first Michelin Guide Bangkok. The first guidebook highlighted nearly 100 (98) restaurants including international, Asian and mostly Thai with 28 Thai street-food stalls. That was a first for Michelin. In two more editions of the guidebooks, they have been produced to expand the list of restaurants and street food-stalls to Phuket, Phang Nga and Chiang Mai. It is a pleasure to learn that in the latest 2020 edition of the Guidebook, Sorn and R-Haan Thai restaurants were both awarded a two-star rating from Michelin. This success is evidence of the chefs and restaurant owners’ dedication, and also the Thais and expats, who have helped raise the standards of Thai cuisine and boost the kingdom’s status as one of the world’s leading gastro tourism destinations.
60th anniversary of the Thai tourism industry
2020 will be a very important year for Thailand, as we will mark the sixtieth anniversary of the official establishment of the Thai tourism industry. In the first year of TAT’s establishment, in 1960, we received a little over 80,000 international arrivals which are minute when compared to the number we received last year. It is all thanks to the utmost effort from everyone in the public and private sectors, especially the Thai people who have been excellent hosts to our visitors.
So, TAT will be using this historic milestone of the country’s tourism industry as an opportunity to take a look back as well as a look ahead. We see a clear need to refresh our value proposition and expand our range of product offerings, especially those in line with the “New Shades of Responsible Tourism”.
As such, we will have key messages highlighting the importance of responsible tourism and being good hosts under the theme of “Next Steps towards a Sustainable Thailand”.
In our approach, sustainable means to use tourism as a tool to reduce the inequalities and disparities. This is usually framed within the context of boosting earnings from tourism. However, it is more important to be socially responsible and focus on enhancing earnings. Sustainability itself is a very sensitive process and must include the social context as well as the fragility of the environment. Thus, it is equally important to focus on quality as in the quality of our work, and attracting quality clients. Visitors who come to Thailand all come to enjoy our nature, culture, cuisine and all the wonderful aspects of what we call “Thainess”.
Apart from that, to celebrate the occasion of 60 years of the Thai tourism industry, TAT will launch the “Thailand Grand Invitation Campaign” by organising a Mega Fam Trip by inviting media and operators from 60 countries around the world to experience Thailand. The 60 routes which were carefully hand selected will be introduced at the event to get a glimpse for the New Shades of Thailand.
We are also joining forces with Thai Airways International who will, also, celebrate their sixtieth anniversary with a range of tourism promotions aimed at strengthening the country’s positioning as a preferred destination. We will work together to promote events; such as, the Amazing Thailand Marathon Bangkok, World Wai Kru Muay Thai Ceremony, the Great Mekong Bike Ride, as well as international events; such as, the Honda LPGA Thailand and PTT Thailand Grand Prix.
Furthermore, as we believe that music is a universal language that can connect all people from all over of the world, the song “Open to the New Shades” will soon be playing on THAI flights courtesy of popular Thai musician Koh Mr. Saxman and the band ‘The Sound of Siam’.
Apart from the marketing side, let me tell you more about the destination management part. If you have travelled to Bangkok lately, you would have seen many construction sites that might cause some inconvenience, which I have to apologise for that. The government is paying more attention to expanding the city’s transportation infrastructure; such as, the BTS Skytrain and MRT subway systems to cover the area of Bangkok and the suburbs. The undergoing construction of the eight MRT line projects will be gradually opened more or less year by year and finally completed in 2025.
Connectivity is also set to be increased further by air, land, and sea. The Bang Pa-In – Nakhon Ratchasima Intercity Motorway or M6 is scheduled to operate in 2021. This will provide more convenience for both the Thais and tourists who want to travel to the Northeast.
Recently, the signing ceremony programme of the Public-Private Partnership Agreement of the High-speed Rail Linking Three Airports Project was set and presided over by the Prime Minister.
The Project will enhance travel around the country and provide more convenient links. These include connecting three airports (Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang and U-Tapao) that will enhance the Eastern Economic Corridor, as well as Bangkok to Padang Besar at the Thai-Malay border, north to Chiang Mai, and to Nong Khai in the Northeast.
Moreover, the second phase of the extension for Suvarnabhumi Airport will be completed in mid-2020. It will be able to accommodate 60 million passengers per year. There will be an automated people mover system to transport passengers between the terminals within two minutes.
We believe that the theme “ASEAN: Together towards a Next Generation of Travel” is very appropriate as we enter the third decade of the 21st century. The world is changing rapidly and so is the travel and tourism industry. The ASEAN countries have all the necessary tourism assets to surf the waves of change and maintain our market share for another generation.
Before I leave the floor today, may I introduce a video to show how we, ASEAN, are linking each of our own uniqueness together and becoming one destination.
Thank you and sawasdee khrap.