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Thailand: Tourism ministry plans to attract more foreign tourists

The Tourism and Sports Ministry will implement an aggressive strategy to attract more foreign tourist arrivals…

The Tourism and Sports Ministry will implement an aggressive strategy to attract more foreign tourist arrivals who now avoid visiting Thailand`s southern border region due to an ongoing violence in the region since early this year, according to Tourism and Sports Minister Sontaya Kunplome.

The minister said on Saturday that the ministry has joint hands with the World Tourism Organization to draw the strategy, aimed to put the country`s deep South on the world`s tourism map.

The strategic plan would base on local potential, said the minister, and it would also draw in suggestions from tourism operators in the three southern border provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, where the current spate of violence has caused more than 700 casualties so far.

Mr. Sontaya said the government has already approved a budget of 240 million baht for the tourism development plan in the country`s deep South.

“I am confident that once we could bring back the confidence among foreign tourists, they would return to visit us as usual,“ he said.

He said the tourism plan would concentrate on developing basic infrastructure, and would stress on public information to create correct understanding among foreign tourists about the southern unrest and bird flu outbreaks.

“We have to create right understanding among tourists that the two problems have taken place in only limited areas. We will also promote eco-tourism and historic sites in the provinces, said Mr. Sontaya.

Tourism and exports are Thailand`s main generators of revenues, according to Mr. Sontaya.

He conceded that the southern unrest has had an impact on local tourism and in nearby provinces, such as Songkhla and Satun.

“There have been 20 percent less tourists visiting the areas, and we have lost 400-500 million baht of tourism revenue,“ he said.

However, the minister said the impact has not yet been felt elsewhere, as the number of foreign tourists visiting other parts of the kingdom has still grown by 10 percent this year.

“Our record until this month shows that around 24,000 foreign tourists have arrived in the kingdom per day, which is higher than 22,000 per day in the same period of last year.

Most foreign tourists come from Japan, China, Britain and Germany,“ he said.

“Despite the surge in the number of tourist arrivals, we still need to continue our public relations to prevent any impact on local tourism from the two pressing problems from spreading to other parts of the country,“ he said.

Mr. Sontaya expected that Thailand would generate at least 700 billion baht revenue from tourism by the end of this year.

He said more than half of the revenue would have come from 12 million foreign tourists, or 384 billion baht, while the rest from domestic tourists.

He said the ministry would incorporate its aggressive strategy with CEO governors nationwide to develop local tourism and divide them into 19 groups of provinces based on their similarities in attractions and potentials.

The government has also planned to set up One-Tambon-One Product (OTOP) villages in every group to sell locally made products to visitors.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said the government would financially support Mr. Sonthaya`s OTOP village plan because it would boost incomes for local communities, besides promoting tourism.

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