Tourism firms seek supply-side initiatives
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Tourism firms seek supply-side initiatives

State praised for stimulating demand

Tourists take snaps at the entrance to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai province. Mr Srettha said the government still does not have a plan to implement the collection of a tourism fee. (Photo: Narumon Kasemsuk)
Tourists take snaps at the entrance to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai province. Mr Srettha said the government still does not have a plan to implement the collection of a tourism fee. (Photo: Narumon Kasemsuk)

The private sector has collectively called for attention to be paid to tourism's supply side after the prime minister insisted on refraining from the collection of a 300-baht tourism fee from foreign tourists, which was meant to be used to set up a tourism development fund.

"The government's performance over the past eight months would rate as 10 out of 10 for stimulating tourism demand, mainly attributed to visa policies. But for more critical problems related to Thai tourism, such as inferior supply development, we're not able to give them any score as nothing has been done to help resolve the problem," said Chamnan Srisawat, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT).

Speaking at the opening of the northern tourism cluster in Chiang Mai, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said the government still does not have a plan to implement collection of the tourism fee.

Mr Srettha said the government would like to attract more tourists while encouraging them to spend more money. The receipts generated by additional spending would generate greater benefit than the revenue generated by the imposition of a tourism fee, he noted.

With the tourism tax seemingly put on hold, there is no dedicated financial resource for tourism development. Mr Srettha said the government would allocate a budget to the Tourism and Sports Ministry for project proposals to stimulate tourism income.

Mr Chamnan said the number of tourists visting the country this year would definitely reach 35 million, but it would be difficult to improve the whole customer experience and see any improvement in spending without any proper plans.

"It's regrettable to hear that the tourism fund won't be set up due to the postponement of the fee collection. We don't have any concerns with regard to volume, but poor tourism experiences and a lack of attractiveness are the key points," he said.

Mr Chamnan said if the country could not initiate a development fund, it wouldn't be able to improve tourism-related infrastructure or develop new tourism products like other countries that are consistently building new tourism attractions to stimulate both the domestic and foreign markets to spend money in the country. He referred to China and Vietnam, which have successfully created new man-made attractions aimed at attracting more tourists.

As revenue from tourism in the first five months of this year had only reached 830 billion baht, whereas the government would like to earn 3.5 trillion baht by the end of 2024, Mr Chamnan said the situation had already proven that the country still lacks new tourism products and convenient infrastructure that would facilitate tourists during the time they spend in the country.

He said the TCT would like to see the government initiate five large man-made projects in five regions to generate tourism revenue for a greater number of destinations, particularly in the second-tier provinces that the government is already actively promoting.

Mr Chamnan said tour operators would be willing to help combine these new destinations within tour packages. If the new attractions became popular among tour groups, it would be more feasible to target independent travellers in the next stage.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Thai Tourism Associations (Fetta) also asked for urgent tourism development in five areas, which are included in a white paper that Fetta would soon submit to the government.

Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, which is part of Fetta, said one of the key policies is to elevate supply development to the same level or a higher level than the demand side.

Both the current and previous administrations always prioritise stimulating demand through marketing campaigns and set key performance indicators (KPIs) that are focused on the number of tourist arrivals rather than focusing on improving the supply side, he said.

Referring to it as an "unbalanced" policy, he said this policy had resulted in unsustainable economic, social and environmental development as the influx of tourists was concentrated on a few specific areas, while second-tier cities still faced problems concerning connectivity and inferior infrastructure. This meant they were unable to attract tourists in the long run, he added.

Fetta agreed that the tourism authorities should set new KPIs, which should also prioritise supply development and improvement, such as safety standards for tourists and standards regarding environmental impacts in each area.

The white paper also suggested establishing a Thailand tourism carrier capacity blueprint, which public and private sectors and academia have called to be set up in guiding the direction of tourism development.

Mr Sisdivachr said the tourism fund, which would be set up once the collection of a tourism fee has been implemented, should dedicate 100 baht per head to specifically cater to sustainable tourism development and crisis management in case an unexpected event occurs in the future.

"We already scored very low on the Travel & Tourism Development Index compared with other leading tourism countries in Southeast Asia," he said.

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