The integration of five tourism-related agencies under the aegis of the National Tourism Policy Committee is expected to improve the overall tourism industry.
The proposal was recently approved by the National Reform Council.
The Tourism Reform Subcommittee (TRSC), which worked on the initiative, believes reform is essential to maintain competitiveness and local residents’ confidence, as the sharp growth in visitor numbers has created a host of problems for local communities.
This year, the World Tourism Organization ranked the overall competitiveness of Thai tourism at 35th among 140 countries and territories worldwide and 10th in Asia-Pacific, with No.1 being the most competitive.
Globally, Thailand’s safety ranking plummeted to 132 out of 140, worse than Lebanon, Iran, Myanmar and the Philippines. (Two years ago, the country ranked 87th.) Its environmental sustainability ranked 116th and land transport services 71st.
“The competitiveness of Thai tourism is on the decline and it’s the right time for an overhaul, especially increasing product and marketing efficiency and dealing with fierce competition,” TRSC president Kongkrit Hiranyakit said.
Chief among the major problems facing Thai tourism are an insufficient number of tourist destinations, while the existing ones are deteriorating, and transportation to and within destinations is not good.
Moreover, facilities and services for tourists are substandard due to the heavy price competition, and tourism personnel lack foreign-language skills.
Mr Kongkrit said topics related to the upgrading of tourist destinations and expanding to tap quality markets had been discussed for a long time, but the goal had been never accomplished.
This is because concerned parties focus on the number of visitors and tourism income rather than the quality of the tourism industry and the distribution of tourism income to communities that own tourist destinations. “Communities and organisations, are disappointed with tourism development because tourist destinations are deteriorating or have deteriorated due to poor management,” he said.
Moreover, benefits do not go to local communities but to investors and business people. Krabi and Phangnga provinces provide good examples.
Phuket boasts many marine tourist destinations, but the lion’s share of tourism revenue goes to investors rather than local residents. If this situation continues, tourism will surely face problems, Mr Kongkrit said.
Major crowded tourist destinations are deteriorating and suffering from social and environmental problems. Among Thailand’s 77 provinces, 85% of Thai and foreign tourists visit only 10 — Ayutthaya, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Krabi, Phangnga, Phuket, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Songkhla and Surat Thani.
Tourism-related state agencies currently work separately, and the Tourism and Sports Ministry, which oversees tourism policy, is facing a shake-up with the Sports Authority of Thailand wanting to go its own way and set up a separate Sports Ministry.
Under the reform plan, Mr Kongkrit said five tourism agencies and state enterprises would have their work integrated and come under the National Tourism Policy Committee.
The five are the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Tourism Department, Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau, Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration and Pinkanakorn Development Agency.
Source : Traveller (From Aug 31 to Sept 6 ) Vol 3, No 12