The Tourism and Sports Ministry expects investment in the Songkhla Lake Basin under the Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (Dasta) to generate more than 100 billion baht in revenue for local communities over 10 years.
Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said the project should stimulate income for communities, in line with the 20-year national strategy to strengthen local economies.
The Songkhla Lake Basin was approved as the seventh designated area under the supervision of Dasta, comprising five districts and 142 communities across three provinces: Songkhla, Phatthalung and Nakhon Si Thammarat.
The area is considered unique for the three water types in the lagoon body, in addition to the historical value and diverse culture covering three religions, said Mr Phiphat.
The five-year development plan from 2023-2027 allocates a budget of 5 billion baht, which is estimated to maximise economic value by 10 times, roughly 50 billion baht within five years and 100 billion over a decade.
Dasta director Athikun Kongmee said the five-year plan was recognised by the National Tourism Policy Committee and the National Economic and Social Development Council, while the cabinet endorsed the announcement of the Songkhla Lake Basin as a designated area last year.
Speaking at the opening ceremony for the project, called "Amazing Songkhla Lagoon: Moving forward as a designated area for sustainable tourism", Mr Athikun said from this year Dasta will focus on providing knowledge to local communities and researching new routes, ensuring safety and quality development.
Other areas being studied include Khlong Thom in Krabi and Koh Kho Khao in Phangnga.
Mr Phiphat said current economic risks, including the collapse of banks in the US, is unlikely to affect tourism in Asia or Thailand.
He said a greater concern was the war in Ukraine. If that situation worsens, it would affect the North American and European markets.
Mr Phiphat said Thai tourism should look for alternative markets, including Southeast Asia, the Middle East and other Asia-Pacific countries.
He said Thailand is estimated to welcome at least 25 million international visitors this year, despite the economic pressures. China's quick reopening could increase the arrivals tally to 30 million, said Mr Phiphat.