Re: “Thai tourism can move up a gear. Here’s how”, Streetwise, January 12.
Achara Deboonme asks, “What did Thailand do to attract nearly 30 million visitor arrivals in 2015?”
My answer to that question is “nothing”. Thailand hasn’t done anything of substance to attract tourists, who come for the natural resources, impressive culture, cheap food and relatively cheap accommodation. Employing 8 per cent of our workforce, the tourist industry earns 20 per cent of our gross domestic product, while in agriculture we use 20 per cent of the workforce to earn 8 per cent of GDP.
Yet, despite tourism’s importance, every government has ignored incessant complaints that tourists are being treated as victims rather than as paying guests. Unless this exploitative mentality is addressed, the rot will slowly seep to the core and all Thais will one day be branded crooks.
In Siem Reap, Cambodians are incredibly eager to ensure that all visitors are treated as guests. Any wrongs committed against foreign visitors are treated as crimes against the country. As a result, praise has flowed towards that country, while Thailand has been resting on its laurels. The day will come when we end up as victims of our own success.