Prayut eyes trail-running boost for tourism with Asean ultra-marathon
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has proposed a cross-border Asean running event to boost tourism after Thailand was chosen to host two races in the world’s premier ultra-marathon series.
Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) president Catherine Poletti revealed the proposal after visiting Prayut to discuss the series’ Amazean Jungle Trail in Yala’s Betong district and “Thailand by UTMB” on Doi Inthanon in Chiang Mai province.
The Betong trail-running event saw over 1,000 runners from around the world tackle three courses – 100km, 50km and 25km – on May 6-8.
The Doi Inthanon ultra-marathon over a heart-stopping 170km course up Thailand’s highest mountain will take place on December 9.
Asked by Prayut about the benefits of trail running, Poletti explained that it was a kind of hybrid tourism-sports activity that could also boost revenue for local people.
She said trail-running activities could draw more tourists under the UTMB’s philosophy of connecting the athletes with local communities.
She explained that trail runners came not just to race but also to experience local life, with many extending their stay to learn about the culture, in turn boosting revenue from tourism.
Poletti said Prayut showed interest in the hybrid sport-tourism philosophy and suggested that the UTMB expand the Betong Amazean Jungle Trail to Malaysia as a cross-border race. He also organising cross-Asean running events, she added.
Poletti said Thailand has strong potential for trail running because the Kingdom is a popular tourist destination for Europeans. Tourists are drawn by Thailand’s reputation as a friendly “Land of Smiles”, she added, confirming that she had received a warm welcome from her Thai hosts.
She said that apart from beautiful scenery, Thailand also offered fascinating history and culture for trail runners and other tourists.
Meanwhile, the Doi Inthanon trail would give runners a unique experience of the national park’s beautiful forests and mountains, Poletti said.
The Chiang Mai run would build on the success of the "Amazean Jungle Thailand", where runners followed Malay signposts through the pristine Hala-Bala Wildlife Sanctuary, an area on the Malaysia border known as the Amazon of Asean.
Poletti said the Betong race could be compared to the Chamonix-Mont-Blanc route where runners enjoy stunning views across France, Italy and Switzerland.
She said the limited number of direct flights to Betong’s new international airport would not pose a major obstacle to trail-running there, adding that athletes could be bussed in just as they are for the Chamonix race in France.
The UTMB president also praised the Thai government for its support of trail-running activities.