Surat Thani: Members of the tourism sector in this southern province are shifting their focus to the US market by playing up local attractions.
Atirat Danpattaraworawat, chairman of the Chiew Lan Lake tourism promotion association, said on Sunday that operators had stirred interest in the US market during a networking trip to the United States organised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
He said Thai operators provided information and shared highlights of Surat Thani to a group of 20 travel advisers in Los Angeles, California, and its surrounding cities over two sessions.
He said the operators managed to stimulate interest in the province by highlighting local cuisine, natural attractions and its role as a transport hub for other provinces. Some travel advisers even agreed to travel to Thailand and send tourists to explore Surat Thani, he said.
Mr Atirat said American tourists are drawn to "Thainess" and attach importance to experiences during travel, community-based sustainable management, hygiene and safety.
Chiew Lan Lake can be a new potential site for American tourists as it offers a variety of nature-based experiences under the concept of "disconnect to reconnect", he said.
"The US market will become the main market after Europe, while visitors from the Middle East are also coming," he said. "We saw a return of Israeli tourists in late November too."
Surat Thani will one day be a crucial link between the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand under a magaproject being pushed by the government, he said. Tourism in Surat Thani is expected to grow further due to arrivals from Portugal, Spain and Latin America, he said, adding the development will help create more jobs for locals.
According to the TAT's Surat Thani office, a total of 2,865,226 tourists visited the province last year, bringing in almost 22 billion baht. From January to October this year, 6,077,227 visited the province, a 112% jump from last year, and brought 45.6 billion baht. Out of the total visitors, 3,707,565 were Thais.