Ministry sets B40bn sports tourism target
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Ministry sets B40bn sports tourism target

Muay Thai promoted as part of soft power

MotoGP Thailand Grand Prix is one of the largest events to have been held at the Chang International Circuit in Buri Ram.
MotoGP Thailand Grand Prix is one of the largest events to have been held at the Chang International Circuit in Buri Ram.

The Tourism and Sports Ministry has set a target of 40 billion baht in revenue from sports tourism next year, promoting Muay Thai as part of the country's soft power.

Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said the ministry is working on a plan to integrate tourism and sports through hosting sports events, especially this winter.

These include the Amazing Thailand World Mountain & Trail Running Championships in Chiang Mai this month.

This event, hosted by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT), will target athletes globally, said Mr Phiphat.

He said the MotoGP Thailand Grand Prix last month generated up to 4 billion baht.

By promoting sports events together with tourism, Thailand could gain more than 30-40 billion baht in 2023 as there are other international events taking place next year, such as Bangkok-Chonburi 2023 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games.

The SAT joined "ITB Asia 2022" -- a business-to-business trade show -- for the first time last month in Singapore.

The agency and sports business operators from Thailand who also joined the event met travel agencies whose customers were high spenders and sports lovers.

Gongsak Yodmanee, governor of the SAT, said the agency aims to push Thailand as Asia's leader of sports tourism.

The country benefits from hosting a variety of sports, including golf, with plenty of international standard courses, jet skiing, motorcycle racing, as well as Muay Thai -- part of the country's soft power.

Dam Srichan, founder of a Krudam Muay Thai school, said the school offers tour agencies one-hour Muay Thai sessions to add to their itineraries.

Muay Thai has been a well-known sport among foreigners for decades, but adding it to tour packages has been popular since 2017, said Mr Dam.

Krudam Muay Thai school previously had 13 schools in Thailand and overseas prior to the pandemic. However, after being hit by the pandemic, there are currently five branches remaining in Thailand.

The school is gradually recovering with 30% of the number of students it had in 2019. Bookings this high season until the middle of next year are quite strong, particularly from Japanese tour groups.

Mr Dam will also open two more branches in Thailand, of which one will be in Phuket, a huge Muay Thai market.

Kwon Tipayamontri, general manager of event management and operations at Mice and Communication, the organiser of the Bangsaen Series marathon races, said running events have helped generate spending in tourism destinations.

Thailand had over 2,500 running events per year prior to the pandemic.

Mr Kwon said demand for races has increased every year even during the pandemic as the firm received over 49,000 applications from both Thailand and abroad, while each event was limited to around 10,000 runners.

He said each runner would have 2-3 friends or family members travelling together with them and they tend to stay longer than general tourists.

According to the firm's study, Bangsean21 in 2021 welcomed about 12,000 runners, with an average of 7,000-8,000 baht spending per person, generating about 250-280 million baht.

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