High value-low impact: Hua Hin’s tourism industry and the focus on quality, not quantity

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Khun Krod Rojanastien

Thailand is aiming to reset its entire tourism industry by pivoting away from mass tourism to one which focuses on quality over quantity.

For Hua Hin, it is this new focus which will underpin the ambitious plans to develop the city, along with neighboring Cha Am, into Thailand’s premier destination for health and wellness.

The aim is for Hua Hin to create its own niche in wellness tourism by capturing demand from ‘high quality’ tourists who offer greater spending power.

According to a key figure from Thailand’s health and wellness sector, the pandemic has already brought a shift towards wellness tourism.

“This pandemic has immensely affected tourism and traveler behavior. People tend to look for travel experiences that provide safety, hygiene, rich nature and sustainability, particularly from Generation X and Generation Y”, Krod Rojanastien, president of the Thai Spa Association and head of the Hua Hin Recharge scheme told Hua Hin Today.

To set Thailand on its way to achieving its goal for ‘quality over quantity’ tourism, the government has set a Tourism Revenue target for both domestic and overseas travelers of gaining 50 percent of 2019’s revenue in 2022. While targeting 7-10 million overseas tourists with average spending THB70,000 – 80,000/tourist/trip. The total revenue from inbound tourism in 2022 aims at THB 650,000 million.

But reaching this target will not be plain sailing, said Mr Krod who is also a consultant to the President for Chiva-Som International Health Resort in Hua Hin.

“The country might have some established products like medical and wellness tourism which are regarded as one of the key pillars of quality tourism, but in my view as president of Thai Spa Association and having been in the wellness industry for over 10 years, the country may need a lot more effort and has a long way to go before achieving this target,” he said.

Despite the challenges, Mr Krod believes Hua Hin’s wellness facilities, its proximity to Bangkok and the fact it has its own airport, which is expected to welcome dozens of new flights over the coming years, means it has the potential to become Thailand’s wellness hub.

However, it needs a much more multifaceted approach which should also emphasize sustainability, human resources and training and development in the local infrastructure.

“In my opinion, sustainability and wellness development needs collaboration from tourism entrepreneurs and also importantly, support from the government.

“It should not only be business and private sectors who benefit from Hua Hin as a wellness destination but also local residents and the community”, Mr Krod said.

“This must be agreed at a national level and rolled out to the provincial development plan. Hua Hin tourism entrepreneurs and offices must unite and show the potential and commitment in sustainability practices, human resource training in wellness services, community wellness, environmental wellness and infrastructure development”, he added.

“We must unite, envision the big picture and work on the same page.”

“In the past, Thailand was mainly driven by mass tourism which meant there were high rates of resource consumption against a lower level of revenue contribution.

“We expect this kind of situation should never be repeated once international tourism resumes, especially in Hua Hin. This goal emphasizes we need to move forward on quality, not quantity.

“It’s possible for us to turn to ‘high value-low impact tourism’ with fewer tourists but still maintaining 50% of pre-Covid revenue”, Mr Krod said.

“Even though this path will not be easy, this is the right direction for our natural resources that were overly exploited in the past”.

Mr Krod also spoke of the importance regarding training and human resources so people working in the industry can have the necessary skills needed.

Mr Krod explained how the Chiva-Som International Academy in Bangkok aims to produce highly trained therapists and wellness personnel not only endowed with knowledge and skills but also the attentiveness and enthusiasm to render services to the clients wholeheartedly and effectively.

This year, the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce in collaboration with Chiva-Som International Academy launched the Bachelor of Science in Integrated Wellness and Beauty course.

The collaboration aims to develop students in the beauty and wellness industry, in line with the national vision to drive the country’s hospitality industry to be capable and competitive in the international market and to respond to the phenomenal global demand for wellness services.

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