Thailand is set to expand the number of villages qualified to become part of a nationwide community-based network as part of the strategy to ensure better distribution of tourism income, Thailand Minister of Tourism and Sports Mrs. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, announced during the official opening of the Thailand Travel Mart Plus 2017 in Chiang Mai.
TTM + remains an essential event for professionals of tourism who are looking to learn about the latest trends and products not only in Thailand but also in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Yuthasak Supasorn, TAT Governor said, “TTM+ has been held for 16 years now and 2017 promises to be the best yet. We have 388 buyers from 56 markets all over the world as well as sellers from all over Thailand and the GMS. The event shows our international guests not only how much this region offers in terms of high quality tourism good, services and attractions, but also how GMS nations can work together to offer amazing multi-country tourism experiences.”
Meanwhile, Thailand tries to get away from mass tourism and the move is driven by Thailand Minister of Tourism. “Tourism is not just about number of arrivals but also about ways to enhance tourism’s experience and consequently enhance expenditure and the average length of stay. This is critical component of our national strategy”, she indicated.
According to Mrs Wattanavrangkul, the Kingdom has ambitions to achieve US$80 billion in 2017. “It is a way to distribute wealth all across the country, increase the quality of life of local people and strengthen community. This is all the sense of the tourism industry. It is people to people, heart to heart, driven by passion”, she pledged.
Communities are playing an increasingly important role as they are not only the driving force for an authentic tourism experience. “Communities are responsible for setting directions and managing tourism activities for the benefits of the community”, declared Mrs. Wattanavrangkul.
One of the prime objective of the Ministry of tourism is then to reinforce Community-Based Tourism. The country has 264 community-based tourism projects now and would be adding another 99 in the course of the next year.
The minister said Thailand’s community-tourism tourism villages were where visitors could get a truly unique experience, come away with a better understanding of the country’s culture and heritage, improve their own work-life balance and also help narrow the rich-poor income gap.
Other speakers included Mr. Mason Florence, Chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Academy on Gastronomy; Professor David Beirman (Ph.D.), Senior Lecturer University of NSW, Australia, on Tourism Crisis Management; and Ms. Sarah Mathews, Head of Destination Marketing Asia Pacific (APAC), TripAdvisor, on Digital Age: E-Commerce Platform.
Mr. Florence provided some background on the Asia’s 50 best restaurants guide and the selection process. He explainedthe Thai capital is offers an “open-minded experimental ground for chefs to work their magic.”
Prof Beirman praised Thailand as one of the most crisis-resilient countries in the world and one of the best responders to crisis. He said that safety and security concerns are becoming priority and cited the importance of companies and countries to do safety audits.
“How others see us is very important to our reputations. Once people chose destinations because it was good value for money or its beautiful images. But now, the safety factor is becoming most important.”
He also hailed Thailand for its involvement with PATA’s crisis management team and excellent media management and stakeholder relations. It was also incumbent upon destinations to provide visitors with safety tips, Prof Beirman said.
Ms. Mathews outlined how technology had changed the travel decision making process, and made it easier to find information and share experiences. It had also become an enormous source of travel research.
She said travellers first search for special stories and experiences, and then start looking of hotels and other services.
Research on the travel habits of the more than 300 million monthly visitors to TripAdvisor website had shown that culture, costs and climate are key draws when choosing a destination.
“The advantage of data is that everything is measurable. Businesses can also interact and talk to their customers about their preferences and requirements,” she said.