Ideas, discussions and meetings to promote tourism in Thailand and more specifically our Region are constantly in the news. Changing and contradictory statistics about tourist arrivals are presented and recent reports have again been received with yet another round of ‘good ideas’. It has been reported that the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), in cooperation with the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA), invited local hoteliers and guesthouse owners to brainstorm effective ways to improve Thai tourism in 2015. On 12th January, this gathering was chaired by the Director of TAT’s central office Mr. Somchai Chomphunoi, the Director of TAT’s Hua Hin office Ms. Orasa Awuthkhom and lecturers Assoc.
Prof. Dr. Therdchai Chuaybamrung and Dr. Phaithun Monphanthong. The report included comments from Dr Therdchai about the ever changing European tourism prospects, the Asean market and the Chinese as a main target group. Road and train travel benefits were discussed and it was stated that the long awaited Hua Hin to Pattaya ferry service was again being considered. This was a gathering of small and medium enterprises invited by the TAT to attend. However many more operators were totally unaware that this was taking place. In a separate report, the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports (MOTS) Mr. Khajorn Weerajai has called for a meeting with tourism business owners and entrepreneurs and introduce them a new tourism policy in which four southern Provinces are upgraded as the Royal Coast.
Although described as a new policy, the notion of the ‘Royal Coast’ has been on the drawing board for some time. To date there has been no noticeable implementation of this ‘re-badging’ of these Provinces; named as Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khirikhan, Chumphon and Ranong. Mr Weerajai is quoted as saying “In 2015, we would like all the four Provinces to formulate plans with public offices and business people. The plans will be proposed to MOTS for any assistance. However, one urgent thing that local entrepreneurs should do is to work with the others to boost their business quality, improve their brand and innovate their product to serve the need of tourists, especially products about traditional culture and local activities which are the major selling points of the four provinces.”
Reports about meetings of this nature can only lead to bewilderment at the apparent fragmentation of tourism planning and marketing. The notion that local entrepreneurs should be ‘working with others’ and ‘boosting their business quality’ goes without saying. However the responsible agencies appear to be uncoordinated and present only confusing ideas.