By PETCHANET PRATRUANGKRAI
After a meeting with China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) chairman Shao Qi Wei, Thai Tourism and Sports Minister Somsak Pureesrisak said Thailand and China will boost cooperation by setting up a committee to address tourism-related problems, as well as draw up strategies to promote travel between the two nations.
It will be the first government-level committee to directly address bilateral tourism issues. The committee will be co-chaired by a Thai deputy prime minister or tourism minister, while the CNTA chairman will act as Chinese co-chair. The committee will hold annual meetings to address problems and seek solutions, as well as to draw up strategies to promote tourism-sector growth.
“The committee should be an efficient instrument of cooperation for both countries. Each year, about 4 million Chinese travellers visit Thailand, while about 650,000 Thais visit China. The committee should help address problems for both countries so that the number of travellers increases while at the same time the quality of tourism improves,” said Somsak.
According to the Tourism and Sports Ministry, 647,000 Thai tourists visited China in 2012, while 2.7 million Chinese came to Thailand last year. The number of Chinese travellers grew by more than 90 per cent in the first three quarters of this year over the same period last year to 3.7 million.
The ministry projects that the number of Chinese tourists – the largest group of foreign visitors to Thailand – will reach 4 million by the end of this year.
Thailand will also furnish China with a list of trusted, government-certified hotels and restaurants to help Chinese travellers choose were to stay and dine.
A list of restaurants and hotels that have been blacklisted by the government for creating problems for travellers will also be provided. Among the establishments that fail to win government backing are those believed to have been set up as nominee businesses or for some other special purpose. Low-quality tour agents sometimes send tourists to these places in exchange for under-the-table payments.
Somsak said some service businesses hit travellers with hidden costs, with tour agencies earning some of this money. The Thai and Chinese governments have agreed to eliminate these kinds of businesses as they create duplicate costs for tourists.
The committee will also discuss safety problems encountered by travellers, the minister said.
The ministry will issue a regulation soon to tackle the shortage of tour guides in the Kingdom.
The number of tour guides trained to cater to foreign travellers is inadequate, particularly in light of the significant surge in the number of Chinese travellers to Thailand seen this year, Somsak said.
On average, about 350,000 Chinese come to Thailand every month, but only 2,000 certified guides are trained to cater to them – about half the number needed, the minister said. About 1,000 more guides trained to cater to Russians and 1,000 trained to assist Korean visitors are also needed.
Somsak said the ministry’s new regulation would relax the requirement that licensed guides must hold a bachelor’s degree, provided they can pass the tour guide association’s test.