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Tourism campaign unveiled

Feb 14. 2016
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By SUCHAT SRITAMA
THE NATION

A SET OF 11 quick-win strategies has been drafted in an attempt to strengthen the tourism industry through sustainable development, increased revenues and financial benefits for rural communities.
The plan includes boasting the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) sector and promoting Thai food including fruit, Thai storytelling and contests as well as introducing attractive lighting at key attractions.
The plans also covers attractive Board of Investment incentives and promoting Thailand as a shopping paradise and a tourism gateway through an extensive website while also making the country more attractive by reforming visas and immigration rules as well as laws and regulations in general while beefing up inbound logistics and safety and security. 
The three-month campaign is known as the Pracharath Project and involves public and private sector joint strategies. An additional 30 tourism issues have been included in this blueprint and are set for implementation later. 
The Minister of Tourism and Sports, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, was appointed to lead the public side of the campaign, with the private sector side original earmarked to be headed by Kalin Sarasin, chairman of the board of directors at the Tourism Authority of Thailand. Kalin later transferred the job to Chanin Donavanik, vice chairman and chairman of the executive committee at Dusit International. He also serves as chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce’s committee on tourism and service businesses. 
Chanin will report the progress of the campaign to Somkid Jatusripitak, the deputy prime minister who is overseeing the Pracharath Project. Since Chanin took the job last month, he kicked off the first project by encouraging the more than 70,000 members of the Thai Chamber of Commerce to hold meetings in provinces in order to generate income among local communities. He also asked members of associations for insurance and banking as well as listed companies to push MICE business.
The working group will work with all hospitality and tourism stakeholders – including hospitals, airlines, travel agents, retail operators, and government agencies – to drive the projects three main objectives – pave the way for sustainable development, increase tourism revenue, and spread income to rural communities nationwide. 
“Thailand’s tourism [industry] has grown by 150 per cent from last 10 years [from 10 million to 30 million arrivals) but major problems remain unsolved as they did last decade,” Chanin said.
His next meeting with Somkid is scheduled for Friday.
“We will propose that the government promotes Thai food and Thai fruits to international tourist before arriving [here] and until they leave the country including stopover passengers,” he said. “Aside from the expected 32 million tourists this year, we should have 120 million stopover passengers at major airports where they can buy Thai food and seasonal fruits.” 
Before landing in the country, tourists will be exposed to Thai food including fruit while on planes via a new video clip. The working group has talked with Thai Airways International, Bangkok Airways, and Thai Smile Airways about screening the clip on planes. More year-round marketing and events are also planned in a bid to boost tourism.
The Association of Thai Travel Agents will create a package for Thai food and farm visits targeting the six million customers who travel with its members annually. About 12 of the country’s best rice farms will be part of the tour. Retails operators, restaurants, and media companies will be asked to help promote the move, while hospitals are willing to promote tourism to foreign patients. The Amazing Thai Food Festivals will be targeted at potential markets such as Japan.
In a bid to increase tourist spending, the working group will propose that the government invest in nighttime lighting at major attractions, beginning with historical destinations Sukhothai and the former Thai capital Ayutthaya, as well as canals in Bangkok. Some nighttime activities will be added at targeted places like night markets and popular street food locations. 
Meanwhile, it is believed better tax refund procedures must be endorsed immediately to impress tourists after they have shopped, with tax refund counters at every store. Indonesia recently implemented a zero shopping tax for tourists after Hong Kong and Singapore did. It is also believed Thailand needs to cease taxing imported items such as wine and place lower taxes on luxury products. 
For new investments, Chanin’s team will suggest financial institutions provide soft loans to existing hotels for renovations instead of pushing new developments because new projects may take years to complete. It is hoped the strategy will increase cash flow in the market. More than 400,000 registered rooms are already in the market excluding 300,000 rooms being operated by non-registered hotels. Thus, the government may need to revise hotel investment laws by relaxing some conditions to help small and medium-sized operators build hotels rather than pushing big projects. It is expected this would help SMEs expand. 
According to Chanin, other important issues will be addressed by the government afterwards, probably in April. These include the tourism gateway, a website portal containing a maze of tourism information and a database. Tourists would be able to complete their travel plans on the site while SMEs would be able to promote their products and services on it to better compete again big players.
It is also believed more air connectivity, especially between second and third-tier cities throughout Southeast Asia, is needed. The working group initially discussed with major airlines in Thailand the idea of adding more services to new destinations such as Cebu and Davao in the Philippines. It is expected that if Thailand can link with more second and third-tier destinations in the region, it should have more visitors. 
 

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