By Suchat Sritama
Many problems need addressing besides curfew, TCT says
The tourism sector is pressing the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to solve some urgent problems that are making things even worse for a crucial industry that has been hit hard for months.
The Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT) also is putting forward some short-term measures to prop up the industry.
“Apart from lifting night-time curfews in tourist areas, the military government still needs to solve many other problems. These include reducing illegal businesses such as [unlicensed] taxis in Phuket, Chinese-language tourist guides who are reportedly damaging local guides’ [business], and overcharging for electricity on Samui Island,” said Pornthip Hirunkate, vice president of the TCT.
Since the military seized power last month, travel associations, especially in the provinces, have approached the NCPO directly for help instead of the TCT, as they believe they will get a quicker response from the junta.
The TCT, however, is compiling a list of problems and will soon pass them to the NCPO. It will also advise the regime to run a series of short-term recovery plans such as providing funding to help retired people travel, encouraging government officials to hold meetings and conference in the provinces, and reducing exploitation of tourists.
Meanwhile, the junta should launch a hotel-discount campaign very soon to boost domestic travel. The campaign would be funded by the Bt840-million grant announced last week to revive tourism.
“Tourism has dropped significantly since the military coup last month. But we still have hopes of being a world-famous destination,” Pornthip said.
According to statistics, Thailand earned Bt1.3 trillion in revenue from foreign tourists last year, ranking seventh in global tourism income – ahead of all Asean and after only China, up from ninth in 2012. There were 26.5 million international visitors last year, 10th globally.
According to the NCPO, three more major tourist destinations –Khao Yai, Koh Chang and Koh Phangan – have had the curfew lifted. Places previously exempted are Phuket, Koh Samui, Pattaya, Hua Hin, Cha-am and Hat Yai.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand is projecting international visitor arrivals in 2014 at 25.6 million, a slight drop from last year. However, visitor expenditure is expected to rise 2.18 per cent to Bt1.23 trillion.