Highlighting the importance of tourism to the Thai economy, Thailand Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has said that while the government needs to invest heavily in infrastructure, such investment needed to pay attention to natural resource conservation.
According to Mr. Abhisit 15.8 million foreign visitors arrived in Thailand last year generating Bt585 billion (about $US19.343 billion) in revenue, representing 7 per cent of the gross domestic product. If the country is able to maintain a 7.5 per cent annual growth in visitor arrivals and 11 per cent growth in income, Mr. Abhisit said the income from foreign tourism would double over the next decade.
Thailand’s largest infrastructure investment in the last 10 years has been Bangkok International Airport, which opened in 2006, with the focus in the next few years on 200km (about 125 mile) of mass-transit systems in greater Bangkok and on a Thai-Chinese joint venture to build a rail network linking Nong Khai, Bangkok and Padang Besar, expected to be completed in four years. Mr. Abhisit said efforts were needed by both the public and private sector to solve existing problems, such as deterioration of tourism spots, with the cabinet already approving a national tourism development plan for 2012 to 2016 with special emphasis on infrastructure development and rehabilitating damaged tourism destinations. The comments by Mr. Abhisit were echoed by Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Surapol Svetaseni, who said environmental protection was a key concern for local and international tourists, and increasingly influenced their holiday destination decisions. Highlighting a major problem visitors encounter throughout Thailand, Mr. Surapol said that “when Asean becomes a single market under the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 Thailand will have a great opportunity to attract more foreign visitors, however, communication skills of Thai people must be improved”, he said. By John Le Fevre.