By Suchat Sritama
The Tourism Council of Thailand will propose three strategic plans to the ruling junta next Wednesday to revive tourism, said TCT vice president Thanate Vorasaran.
The TCT will be among seven key industries meeting with the National Council for Peace and Order on July 16 to discuss rebuilding the economy in both the short and long terms. Thanate said the first plan was to ask the junta to waive visa fees for tourists from mainland China and Taiwan ahead of the coming high season. The current visa fee is Bt1,000.
“China and Taiwan are among the biggest sources for Thai tourism, while spending per head by Chinese last year was Bt43,000 per trip, close to that of Japanese,” he said.
Thanate said waiving visa fees for other source markets might not be much help, as most of those fees are already low, but the situation with Chinese is different. This is just a short-term strategy to rebuild tourism after it suffered from the anti-government political movement. If the proposal is approved, the number of visitors from Taiwan and the mainland should not decline this year. “Thailand lost almost 2 million visitors from China and Taiwan during the first six months. If there’s no big campaign [to lure them back], we will undergo more suffering,” he said.
According to the Association of Thai Travel Agents, 4.7 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand last year, one of the biggest sources, while Taiwan has been a high-potential market for years. The ATTA had expected more than 5 million Chinese visitors this year. However, arrivals from China through ATTA members dropped by 50 per cent during first six months, while the Taiwan market plunged 60 per cent compared with the same period last year.
The second strategy the TCT plans to propose to the junta is to re-establish the National Tourism Development Committee. If the committee is reinstated, it could work with other organisations on tourism development, especially in the areas of funding and budgeting. For years, the tourism sector pushed to work with other bodies but always failed to get anywhere. Many cross-projects were not achieved as planned.
The last proposal is designating seven provinces that counted more than a million international visitors a year as special administration zones. This designation would allow the provinces to determine their own tourism-management direction.
The seven provinces in the proposal are Phuket, Surat Thani, Songkhla, Chon Buri, Chiang Mai, Prachuap Khiri Khan, and Bangkok.
“Provinces that host a lot of tourists should have their own strategic plans, not only for tourism itself but also related industries like food supply, transport, security, and medical services,” Thanate said.
Moreover, some alternative administration plans will be proposed for another 12 provinces with more than 500,000 tourists a year, such as Krabi, Kanchanburi and Phetchaburi.
“The setting up of a National Tourism Development Committee and justifying the declaration of special zones are part of the long-term [strategy] created by the TCT,” Thanate said.