Lobby says tourism must be priority
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Lobby says tourism must be priority

State urged to tackle industry's challenges

Tourists arrive at Suvarnabhumi airport on Thursday. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)
Tourists arrive at Suvarnabhumi airport on Thursday. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)

The Thai Hotels Association (THA) has urged the next government to prioritise the tourism industry as a key economic driver, addressing the labour shortage, low level of safety and security, as well as sustainability.

Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, the THA president, said Thai tourism workers are in high demand in many countries where the industry has revived, including spa therapists and cruise workers, as many of them relocated for new jobs.

This situation amplified the labour shortage following the two-year pandemic shutdown, which caused a number of tourism workers to return to their hometowns permanently.

Another challenge is the agreement with Saudi Arabia to allocate Thai workers to the Middle Eastern country, which seeks manpower from Thailand to fill vacancies in the hospitality sector.

"Hotels in major provinces are now competing for both skilled and unskilled labour," said Mrs Marisa.

"As Thailand becomes an aged society with a low birthrate, the industry will likely face an ongoing shortage."

She said Thailand ranked poorly for safety and security as well as environmental sustainability in the World Economic Forum's Travel And Tourism Development Index 2021.

The nation ranked 92nd and 97th, respectively, although its overall position was 36th thanks to high marks for infrastructure and price competitiveness.

"The tourism sector could create an economic multiplier for society at every level, particularly grass roots. We need the new government to prioritise this industry and integrate related work from different ministries to speed up the development process," said Mrs Marisa during the "Economic Drives" forum on Thursday, which gathered candidates for prime minister and representatives from political parties.

In terms of sustainability, she recommended tax cuts and incentives for certified green hotels and green regulations across the whole supply chain.

For example, Singapore provides a sustainability roadmap requiring 60% of hotel rooms to achieve sustainable standards by 2025.

Napas Paorohitya, chief marketing officer at Bumrungrad International Hospital, said Thailand has the potential to be a medical and wellness tourism hub, but challenges remain in terms of value.

Thailand attracted more than 3.5 million tourists for those services in 2019, four times higher than Singapore, which tallied 850,000 visitors.

However, Thailand generated only 43 billion baht that year, 19% higher than Singapore.

Ms Napas said the country must pivot to high-value industries, offering more services in addition to medical check-ups, such as intensity care, customised care and longevity care packages, in order to gain higher margins.

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