China plan hailed as model for boosting rural tourism

China plan hailed as model for boosting rural tourism

Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul wants a clearer action plan to turn tourism into a tool to generate income for local communities.

Her call comes after she attended the First World Conference on Tourism for Development in China last week. Mrs Kobkarn is keen on Thailand following the example of China, which in her view successfully balances inbound and outbound tourism and uses tourism activities to generate income and reduce poverty in rural areas.

"We should set a clearer goal on how tourism can help distribute income to local communities, then a detailed action plan will follow," she said.

Last year, foreign tourist arrivals to mainland China fell by 1.4% to 26 million as outbound tourism reached 120 million trips.

According to a report by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), Chinese tourists spent US$215 billion abroad last year, up 53% from 2014.

The WTTC estimated that the Chinese tourism industry contributed more than 10% to the country's GDP in 2015 -- more than education, banking or automotive.

The travel and tourism sector employed 66.1 million people in 2014 or 8.6% of the country's total workforce. The figure rose to 68.3 million in 2015.

By 2025, travel and tourism is expected to create 94.1 million jobs and account for 11.7% of total employment.

The Tourism and Sports Ministry wants to create an evaluation index to show working results as Thailand attempts to generate tourism income for local communities.

The two starter campaigns, 12 Hidden Gems and 12 Hidden Gems Plus, are meant to serve this policy, with a goal of generating tourism income in secondary provinces.

After the 12 Hidden Gems campaign was launched in late 2014, tourism income in 12 lesser-known provinces rose by 15% on average last year.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) will play a key role in boosting tourism in both international and domestic markets.

Yuthasak Supasorn, the TAT governor, said Thailand will draw more quality foreign tourists after seeing tourism income growth of 17% in the first quarter of 2016.

The TAT estimates income from foreign tourists at 830 billion baht in the first half.

Plans call for promoting low-season tourism and encouraging more Thais to travel inside the country.

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