By THE NATION
Of the 136 countries around the world covered by the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, which was released in April, Thailand sits at 118th with a 4.0 score for safety and security for tourists.
The index indicates a country’s exposure of tourists and businesses to security risks, considering serious harm such as violence and terrorism.
While a score of seven is considered the best for visitors, Finland is ranked No 1 with a score of 6.7, while Colombia, regarded as the most dangerous country for travellers, is the lowest with a score of 2.6.
Among Asean countries, the Philippines is the most dangerous, placed 126th with a score of 3.6, and Singapore is at the top (6th and 6.5).
The violence that flared in Thailand’s deep South in early 2004 took more than 6,800 lives.
The southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, bordering with Malaysia, are the trouble hot spots.
While historical and ethno-religious grievances are behind the bloody unrest in the predominantly Muslim region, the causes of the occasional attacks in Bangkok, notably since the 2014 military coup, are largely unknown. Authorities have no clear explanation.
The latest bombing at the military-run Phramongkutklao Hospital in Bangkok took place on May 20, wounding more than 20 people.
Investigations on that case and previous explosions have made little progress.
Responsible military units in the capital say the junta has plenty of measures to assure safety and security for tourists.
“We have enough surveillance cameras in public places and security officials are working in many locations to closely monitor groups of people who have the potential to create trouble,” said Chalermphon Srisawat, commander of the Second Cavalry Division.
The military has also engaged with hotels where foreign guests mostly stay to take care of safety and security, he said.
Hotel operators are required to submit their guest lists to authorities, he said.
However, the WEF report says that Thailand’s overall tourism performance has barely improved, as it was 34th with a 4.4 score in 2017 from 35th with 4.3 in 2015.
Other indicators include business environment, health and hygiene, information and communication technology openness, price competitiveness, environment sustainability and tourist service infrastructure.
The country did well on tourism service infrastructure with a 5.8 score. The lowest score was found in cultural resources with only 2.8.
Thailand welcomed nearly 30 million visitors with international inbound receipts of US$44.5 billion (Bt1.5 trillion) last year. Tourism is a key engine for the country’s economic growth.