Nakhon Phanom works on tourism game with communities
Nakhon Phanom plans to combine routes to connect local communities and nearby provinces to promote cultural and religious diversity along the Mekong River.
Chanyut U-Papong, president of the Nakhon Phanom Tourism Business Association, said operators have been working with villagers to develop more cruise routes along the river.
A study of the environmental and cultural impact from Mekong River cruise tours is being conducted. Mr Chanyut expects the service to begin and piers to be constructed some time next year.
The new routes will offer tourists an experience of the local way of life in various communities such as the Tai Saek tribe and Ban Nong Chan, a historic community where the Sri Kotaboon Kingdom was based.
Mr Chanyut said Nakhon Phanom also presents diverse ethnicities like Tai Kha, Tai Kuan and Tai Nyaw, which have the potential to be developed for community-based tourism.
He said river cruises are operating as usual despite remarkably low water levels in the Mekong River in recent weeks. The river turned greenish-blue, drawing many to observe the phenomenon.
Mr Chanyut said the colour was caused by uncontrollable factors. If there are negative impacts from the phenomenon, he hopes that agencies from each country along the river will find solutions such as draining more water to support livelihoods along the waterway, including in Nakhon Phanom.
Chalermchai Rujiwararat, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Nakhon Phanom office, said the agency has promoted Buddhist and cultural tourism routes linking Nakhon Phanom with Sakon Nakhon and Mukdahan to stimulate spending per trip and prolong stays.
Mr Chalermchai said the three provinces feature a variety of beliefs, encouraging the TAT to introduce new religious tourism routes focused on Christian heritage next year.
The provinces' sites include Saint Anna Nong Saeng Church in Nakhon Phanom, Ban Tharae Catholic Community in Sakon Nakhon and Christian Chapel or Wat Songkhon Morana Sakkhee for the Seven Blessed Martyrs of Songkhon in Mukdahan.
Nakhon Phanom has 133 hotels with 2,927 rooms in total. The occupancy rate during the current high season is about 60% and is projected at 56% for the entire year, up from 53% in the past. Tourists spend 1,135 baht per person per day on average, staying 2.45 days.
Mr Chalermchai expects a 5% increase in tourism arrivals from last year's 1.14 million visitors, who generated 2.14 billion baht in income.
Locals made up the majority of travellers in 2018, while foreign tourists were mostly from Laos, due to the convenience of the third Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge connecting Nakhon Phanom with Khammouane province.
Elderly travellers account for about 70% of Thai tourists. They enjoy the numerous religious attractions, especially the sacred landmark Paya Sri Satta Nakarat statue.
In the first 10 months of 2019, the number of visitors in Nakhon Phanom rose by 3.1% to 965,644, with a contribution of 1.89 billion baht in income, up 5% year-on-year, the Tourism and Sports Ministry said.