Pattaya Daily News

19 January 2007 :: 16:01:21 pm 26014

Thailand’s tourist industry’s amazing resilliance

2006 with its political turmoil, the19th September coup and New Year’s Eve bombings, on top of the previous year’s tsunami, has undoubtedly had an effect on Thailand’s tourist industry
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Hurdles to be overcome
2006 with its political turmoil, the19th September coup and New Year’s Eve bombings, on top of the previous year’s tsunami, has undoubtedly had an effect on Thailand’s tourist industry. Indeed, Suvit Yodmani, the Minister of Tourism and Sport, admitted that the immediate effects of the bombings were bad for tourism – hotels in particular bore the brunt, with cancellations and shortened stays. The blasts, which killed three people and injured 38 including nine foreigners, affected the government’s plan to boost tourism revenue by 13 percent in 2006. Ken Hu, who helps First State Investments in Hong Kong stated that the impact. `In the short run, it will be a negative for the country, for tourism. The key is if there are no repeats of those attacks,’’ which to date looks optimistic.

Spirit Of Resilience

Yet Thailand has already proved its resilience, capability and determination to prosper in the face of adversity on a number of fronts. The 2005 tsunami is a case in point. The post-tsunami performance revealed the dedication and resilience of the Thai people being illustrated by the rapid rebound, even in the areas most badly affected by the disaster.

This spirit is evident throughout the country. Individually, and across the board new initiatives are being planned to cope with the negative impact of the aforementioned glitches. The new year will bring new challenges, undoubtedly, but once again there is every hope that Thailand will rise to them, addressed them, and move on.

Naturally, there is still much to be done in certain areas, but it’s believed the tourist industry has the talent, the will and the skills to take on the new challenges. Because of this, the tourism economic picture remains bright.

The impact of faster telecommunications has resulted in holiday planning at shorter notice and greater price-comparison power available at the customers’ fingertips. These changes have forced radical changes in the industry, especially investment in new technology. There has also been an increase in demand for available human resources and companies will now need to invest more in human-skills development and education

Thai Tourism Authority

The TAT is determined to streamline its operations according to Phornsiri Manoharn, the TAT Governor. It had previously been criticised for excessive spending on marketing activities with little benefit to the tourism sector. The continuation of two large events is currently under threat. The Bangkok Film Festival, costing 200 million baht per year, and the Pattaya Music Festival, costing another 100 million, are likely to be hit as authorities review their actual success in drawing foreign tourists. Mrs Phornsiri declared that the agency would spend its budget for 2007 cautiously on core activities to ensure greater efficiency and effectiveness in promoting the tourism industry. She said the budget for the 2007 fiscal year would largely target Japan, China, Scandinavia and the Middle East to increase tourist numbers. The agency predicts 14.8 million foreign tourist arrivals and 547 billion baht in tourism revenue in 2007.

Projected Tourist Sources

Tourism growth is predicted to continue into the future at a reasonably high and sustainable rate through to 2008. The only major risk is an escalation of the political problems in the South, or a resumption of political unrest due to the previous government’s potential for trouble-making. However, Thailand continues to be generally seen as a safe destination. The main tourist sources are seen as being Korea (ROK), Singapore and Hong Kong SAR, with established markets such as Europe and the US remaining essentially stable. Thailand is also receiving tourists re-directed from Indonesia and the Philippines.

Thai Airports

Suvarnabhumi Airport is seen as being one of the greatest stimuli to the tourist industry and a spur to economic growth in general. Heavy traffic has prompted Airport of Thailand to increase efforts to provide convenience, security and safety at Suvarnabhumi. The Airport of Thailand has also encouraged airways to increase the number of their flights; over 270 flights will be added during this high season.

Don Muang has been slated for reopening on March 15th for domestic services. This will considerably aid congestion at Suvarnabhumi as regards domestic services and give officials breathing space to fix a number of glitches at the new airport.

Health And Beauty

The health and beauty industry and medical tourism have been two of the major performers of recent years. However, the government still believes they are capable of even grater growth. The Ministry of Commerce predicts a 20-30% export growth in the health and beauty sector in 2007, with foreign currency earnings at spas and from spa services representing a major spur to growth in tourism.

The health and beauty sector in Thailand has become a tourist magnet as shown by the 17,000 visitors to the recent Thailand Health and Beauty Show 2006 at the IMPACT Muang Thong Thani. And medical tourism is a seen as a viable partner to the beauty industry which is likely to become more integrated in the future.

Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok has recently benefited from the influx of 55,000 US patients eager to take advantage of more than 50 % savings in medical treatment, and schemes instigated by Florida-based United Group Programs, which sells self-insurance policies to small businesses, expects even more US patients to flock to Thailand. Bumrungrad alone attracted more than 400,000 foreigners last year ––almost half the hospital’s total patients.

The US is not the only source, the Middle East has seen an upsurge in demand from local patients seeking affordable high-quality care in Thailand, especially with the more stringent visa restrictions being applied in the US; the previous medical Mecca.

Convention Growth

Due to the change in leadership in Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) with the recent appointed of Kajit Habanananda as temporary Director-General, Thailand’s Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) industry is likely to becomes more competitive and close competitors like Singapore and Hong Kong are likely to suffer as a result.. Khun Kajit has pledged to make MICE leaner and more aggressive in increasing its market share. Income from MICE is slated to rise to 100 billion baht, or 10% of total annual tourism revenue, within the next three years.

To develop and educate local MICE suppliers in gaining a greater market share from rival destinations, TCEB has established Thailand’s first research and development centre. Conference business is a huge contributor to the Thai local economy with each delegate spending 10,000 baht a day on average which is triple that of normal leisure tourists. With the opening of Suvarnabhumi Airport, the MICE sector has been given a huge impetus, increasing capacity substantially, providing the necessary accessibility and support infrastructure to aid the business’ growth.

Despite the coup, international meeting and incentive travel planners seem not to be unduly worried about the stability Thailand, which continues to be a preferred convention venue. Australia, one of Thailand’s largest MICE business customers, appears unperturbed. Mary Helen Farrell of MHF Marketing says, “Thailand, together with Fiji and New Zealand, enjoys the position as a favoured destination for corporate meetings and incentive travel rewards.

Tourism’s Future Prospects Good

Three months after the coup, tourism is, by and large, back on track. Bad publicity highlighting regional threats, such as health scares and terrorism, may deter some visitors, although Thailand is by no means alone in facing these difficulties.

The maturity of cheap regional airlines will extend accessibility to remote Thai, destinations while the possibility of a single-visa system for the region offers much scope. In Asia, there are now three such schemes being considered:

the “Five Countries, One Destination” initiative adopted by Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar,

1. an Asean proposal,
2. and SAARC, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, that groups India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives and Bhutan.
In addition, South Korea is considering a similar visa system to allow unrestricted travel between Korea, Japan and China.

The prospects of sustainable tourism are looking favourable, but greater consideration must be given to the potential environmental impact in order to come into line with global consciousness, even if it requires compromise measures.

Overall, the prospects for Thai tourism continue to be encouraging. After all, the unique appeal of climate, affable people and diverse tourist attractions are hard to beat and will ensure Thailand’s popularity indefinitely, barring outrageous developments.

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : Internet   Category : Tourism News

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