'Thailand Riviera' wins cabinet seal of approval
A proposal to turn a stretch of coastline southwest of Bangkok into a "Thai Riviera" was approved in principle at Tuesday's cabinet meeting along with a raft of other projects.
The Tourism and Sports Ministry's call to build a so-called "Royal Coast" around the sleepy town of Hua Hin, home of a royal residential retreat, was met with enthusiasm and approved as part of the government's 20-year development plan running until 2020.
The government plans a high-end tourism campaign in the western coastal provinces which it hopes will boost income among locals in the region. The cabinet also approved in principle 45 projects with 170 million baht from the fiscal 2019 budget. All of them are small projects to support community tourism.
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said the "Thailand Riviera" development will be expanded from the previous plan to cover Petchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chumphon and Ranong.
Mr Somkid said the government expected to develop the tourism destinations in those provinces into world-class spots as most foreign visitors only knew about Hua Hin. "The development of the 'Thailand Riviera' is also important for the building of the high-speed train from Bangkok, the terms of reference for which should be this year," he said. The Transport Ministry has already started the construction of the double-track rail route from Nakhon Pathom-Hua Hin-Prachuap Khiri Khan and Chumphon.
The National Tourism Policy Committee, chaired by Mr Somkid, will meet next Monday to drive the project into action while the Tourism Authority of Thailand is required to allocate some money in fiscal 2019 to develop tourism spots in communities in four provinces. Mr Somkid said he also asked Thai Union Group to consider the possibility of building an aquarium in Samut Sakhon to attract visitors since the perception among the public at the moment is that of a fishery province.
Weerasak Kowsurat, the tourism and sports minister, said there were 13.92 million visitors to the region, generating 52.22 billion baht in revenue in 2017. Last year there were 6 million visitors to Phetchaburi while 5 million went to Hua Hin, 4.2 million to Prachuap Khiri Khan, 1.29 million to Chumphon and just over 908 visitors to Ranong.
Mr Weerasak said figures showed the visitors made Hua Hin their hub while the government expected the project will encourage the tourists to spread out to the communities in four provinces. Their spending in those areas could reduce income disparity.
Infrastructure projects will be developed to connect the Gulf of Thailand with the Andaman Sea while the government is currently in the process of developing ports to connect provinces around the Gulf. Mr Weerasak said the project could boost investment in companies while the State Railways of Thailand is expected to build stations as tourism spots.