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Tourism operators must think carefully before expanding in the current climate of global economic weakness, warns Deputy Prime Minister MR Pridi­yathorn Devakula. The global downturn, which has caused com­modity and farm prices to fall sharply over the past year, is likely to persist for another two or three years, he said yesterday. The sit­uation is unfavorable for many businesses, including tourism, to grow. His remarks were in re­sponse to tourism opera­tors asking the government to provide them low-inter­est loans.

“Low-interest loans are not the point. The prob­lem is that Thai business people have built too many hotels, causing an over­supply and price wars. The government can’t inter­vene in the market,” MR Pridiyathorn told a seminar entitled “Moving Forward Thailand … Moving For­ward Tourism”.

To deal with heavy com­petition in tourism, Thai­land should use the advan­tage of its tourism facilities to establish itself as a hub for Cambodia, Laos, Myan­mar and Vietnam, he said.

In his view, tourism operators and the Tourism and Sports Ministry should seriously promote Thailand as a tourist destination linked to neighboring countries to capture quali­ty tourists such as Europe­ans and Japanese.

Tourism is a key sector for the flagging Thai econ­omy this year. The Tourism Department estimates that the country will receive 29 million tourists by year­ end, with expected foreign exchange income of 1.4 trillion baht.

In 2014, 24.7 million foreigners visited Thailand and spent 1.13 trillion baht.

MR Pridiyathorn suggest­ed that tourism operators and related groups find new selling points apart from sea, sand and sun perhaps Thai culture and history to boost visitor numbers.

Many tourists, especially Japanese and Europeans, are seeking new and chal­lenging travel experiences but still prefer comfortable and convenient destina­tions to relax before going home.

Tourism and Sports Min­ister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said a scheme to link destinations in Thai­land and nearby countries would be included in her ministry’s tourism devel­opment plan for 2015-17.

The plan will feature five tourism clusters: Lanna (Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lamphun, Lampang, Phayao); the southern Northeast region (Nakhon Ratchasima, Buri Ram, Surin, Si Sa Ket, Ubon Rat­chathani); the East Coast (Chop Buri, Rayong, Trat, Chanthaburi); the West Coast (Phetchaburi, Pra­chuap Khiri Khan, Chum­phon, Ranong); and the Andaman (Phuket, Phang­nga, Krabi, Satun, Trang).

Each cluster aims to boost tourism and generate revenue for local commu­nities in line with govern­ment policy.

MR Pridiyathorn said Thailand should have quality information kiosks in all the major tourist des­tinations, with clean toilets available for tourists.

Address  complaints of hotel oversupply in resort destinations, he said hoteliers should solve the problem themselves, but he vowed to crack down on illegal hotels.

 Source : The traveller Vol 3, No.7  From July27  To August 2, 2015