Mukdahan aims to bridge Isan, region

Mukdahan aims to bridge Isan, region

The second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, which crosses the Mekong, connects Mukdahan province in Thailand with Savannakhet in Laos. Patipat Janthong
The second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, which crosses the Mekong, connects Mukdahan province in Thailand with Savannakhet in Laos. Patipat Janthong

The northeastern province Mukdahan is revamping its tourism strategy to serve as a bridge connecting many provinces of the Isan region and nearby countries to create a greater flow of tourists.

Yaowalak Tangprakit, president of Mukdahan Tourism Industrial Association, said the province is not only a special economic zone that can connect with Laos and Vietnam, but it can also use tourism to attract visitors, especially in sports tourism.

She said the province will host an eighth annual bicycle event on Feb 23, 2020, where participants can enjoy sightseeing attractions in the province and in Laos such as Ing Hang Stupa.

Some 80% of the 700 cyclists are Thais, who will bring family members to visit the province and have average stays of about 4-5 days during the event. She expects this sports event will generate 100 million baht in Mukdahan.

The association also plans to host a running event alongside the Mekong River next year.

The association, in partnership with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and 20 tourism associations in the Northeast, plan to create connected tourism between the nearby provinces and introduce new tourism routes that include community-based tourism, collaborating with Nakhon Phanom and Sakon Nakhon.

Chalermchai Rujiwararat, director of the TAT's Nakhon Phanom office that is also responsible for Mukdahan province, said connections with neighbouring countries, namely Laos and Vietnam, are a key component for the province to attract more visitors.

Mukdahan has 2,888 rooms at 86 hotels, and he predicts the occupancy rate this year to increase to 56% from 46% in 2018.

Tourists stay in the province an average of 1.58 days and spend 1,169 baht per person per day.

According to the Tourism and Sports Ministry, Mukdahan welcomed 1.77 million tourists in the first 10 months of this year, up 1.55% year-on-year, generating 3.02 billion baht in revenue, an increase of 3.71% year-on-year.

Mr Chalermchai expects tourist arrivals to Mukdahan this year to rise 4% from 2.08 million in 2018, up 10% in terms of tourism income from 3.4 billion baht.

Some 90% of visitors from last year were locals, particularly an older vintage who love to travel to religious places and businessmen who have cross-border appointments in Laos and Vietnam.

For international arrivals, he said travellers from Laos are the key market, as they use the second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge and R9 route from Mukdahan to Savannakhet in Laos for transport.

In November, tourists from Laos set a record with 2 million visits to Mukdahan for the year, up from 1.7 million last year. Other large foreign source markets to the province are Vietnam, Germany, Britain, France and southern China.

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