Call for bold tourism reform in Thailand

Friday, 27 December 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Nation: Tourism operators should make a bold move to reform the industry if they want to sustain its development in the long term and also help boost the country’s tourism revenue, the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) honorary secretary-general Charoen Wangananont has suggested. One of the necessary reforms is to fight against rampant corruption, which he said was a serious issue that had damaged the sector for a long time, with the country having lost billions of baht to state employees and politicians. Then, the reform should focus on transparency, and a rechecking system should also be created, he said. In addition, a new structure would be put in place to highlight the environment and tourists’ safety, which would have to go along with tourism growth, he said. He hopes that what he is planning to do will help save money, and that the amount can then be returned to the sector for the development of important projects. Charoen said the initiative would be implemented next year by tourism operators. The means of carrying out the objectives will be discussed and tourism associations will act as hosts in establishing teamwork to push ahead with the various ideas. They would also have to work with the government in order to tackle the problems facing the sector. Idea behind initiative sparked by current political situation The idea behind the initiative has been sparked by the current political situation, said ATTA honorary chief, who considers that the industry should be improved in much the same way as the drive to reform the country’s politics. Charoen himself is a political activist. As to the tourism outlook, he said travel agents remained optimistic about next year’s business, as the political tension has to date had only a marginal impact on the industry. As long as the political reform efforts do not lead to violence or airport closures, the outlook for travel agents remains good, he said, adding that next year, the number of travellers using agents’ services is projected to grow 10-15% from the more than 4 million estimated for this year. Although politics is currently the only major risk factor for the coming year, House dissolution has not hurt the industry much, because more than 80% of the sector’s economic activities are run by the private sector, he said. Travellers from China, Japan, South Korea and India are among the key markets next year for Thai tourism. The country’s overall tourism prospects are good too, with projected growth of 15% next year, he said. Secondary airports in the provinces are key to boosting tourist numbers, thanks to the facilities they offer to serve the growing number of flights from abroad. Also, Europe is on the recovery path, he added. By the end of this year, more than 10 million tourists will have flown to Phuket, more than 4 million to Samui, over 2 million to Krabi, and more than a million to Chiang Mai. The number of Japanese travellers will be on the rise as well, due to the launch of city-to-city tourism promotion between the two nations. Hokkaido and Sendai are among the Japanese cities participating in the promotion.