Steps touted to thin out crowds
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Steps touted to thin out crowds

Better transport infrastructure urged

Tourists enjoy the sights aboard a long-tail boat on the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok on June 7. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)
Tourists enjoy the sights aboard a long-tail boat on the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok on June 7. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)

Easing overtourism requires proper management and cooperation with local communities, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), which suggests Thailand disperse tourists to new destinations through infrastructure development.

As tourism demand surged post-pandemic, more protests against tourists have occurred in several countries as local communities push for measures to limit the influx of arrivals.

"Overtourism arguably started in the 18th century, and it's been a question of how you manage the tourism flow," said Julia Simpson, president and chief executive of WTTC.

Ms Simpson said businesses need to work hand-in-hand with local authorities in each area to manage tourism.

For instance, many people now want to travel off-season, and dispersing tourists through this period would help mitigate overtourism, she said.

Popular tourist sites can also adopt digital ticketing to control the flow of tourists, said Ms Simpson.

Speaking as a panel member during the International Air Transport Association's annual general meeting in Dubai earlier this month, she said packages to view mountain gorillas in Rwanda and the Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona were examples of successful destination management.

In Rwanda, tourists must pay US$1,500 to see the mountain gorillas, which were previously near extinction because of poaching by local farmers.

About 10% of the fee goes to local farmers, incentivising them to cultivate more forests rather than cutting down trees, and another 10% is distributed to local schools and healthcare services.

The gorilla population has grown since the initiative was launched, while income has increased for farmers and local communities. This proves tourism can help complete the regenerative process, Ms Simpson said.

Similarly, 13 examples of the late architect and designer Antoni Gaudí's work around the city of Barcelona in Spain, including the famed Sagrada Familia basilica, are included in a digital ticket package for tourists.

She said when tourists purchase a ticket, they are incentivised to visit three or four other sites.

The price is dependent on the number of visitors on an hourly basis, while ticket availability is limited.

"Now the whole Gaudí experience employs more people. The measure helps protect the culture of Barcelona and spreads the tourists around," said Ms Simpson.

However, there are still problems, such as rising property prices in some areas because of increased demand among tourists. This trend is apparent on Spain's Balearic Islands, she said.

Tourism Hub

Thailand is an extremely popular destination known globally by tourists, said Ms Simpson.

When visitors want authentic experiences, the country can provide them access to encounters with Thai food or markets, she said.

"If you want to go to the next level, it's certainly true that many successful travel economies have good infrastructure because you must be able to move people around," said Ms Simpson.

She said Thailand needs to persuade tourists to move around from one major area during their stays.

They should be encouraged to explore other areas that are easily accessible using convenient transport options, said Ms Simpson.

She said Thailand has done a good job in terms of marketing, promoting luxury travel and expanding visa-free travel to 93 countries, which should encourage more visitors to the country.

Regarding economic overdependence on tourism, Ms Simpson said this should not be a problem for Thailand, as the nation needs to find a balance and diversify the economy using many sectors.

She said growing economies such as Saudi Arabia are looking to develop tourism as a form of soft power and diplomacy, promoting greater understanding of other people's cultures.

Citing her recent visit to a tourism conference in Ukraine, Ms Simpson said though the country is at war, Ukrainians understood the reconstruction would need to use the power of travel and tourism once the war ends.

According to the WTTC, the value of travel and tourism, including hotels, airlines and other distributors, is expected to reach $11.1 trillion in 2024, employing more than 348 million people.

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