Lampang carriages lack giddy up and go
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Lampang carriages lack giddy up and go

A horse-drawn carriage stops at Phra Kaeo Don Tao Suchadaram Temple in Lampang.
A horse-drawn carriage stops at Phra Kaeo Don Tao Suchadaram Temple in Lampang.

The iconic horse-drawn carriage of Lampang could soon face extinction as tourism revenue in the province is too weak to entice new generations to inherit the business, according to the Tourism Council of Lampang.

In the first four months of this year, Lampang registered 559,892 visitors, down 0.52% year-on-year, with only 35,131 foreign travellers.

Lampang's tourism income for the period increased by 3.09% to 1.8 billion baht, with 1.62 billion derived from Thai travellers.

Lampang province earned 5.36 billion baht in tourism revenue last year, 38th in the country, while neighbouring Chiang Mai was fourth with 89.2 billion baht in revenue.

Waleerat Wiphasrinimit Lines, president of the council, said the number of horse-drawn carriages in the province tallies about 100, unchanged for several years, even before the pandemic.

The existing fleet is moderate for tourism demand, but the more critical problem is a lack of drivers, as most of them are 40-50 years old, said Mrs Waleerat.

The children of these drivers are not interested in continuing this cultural heritage because of unstable, low income compared with other occupations, she said.

The rate for a short sightseeing trip is 300 baht, while a long trip costs 400 baht, said Mrs Waleerat.

Even though tourists who visit Lampang still want to ride on horse-drawn carriages, the job is unattractive to younger people, she said.

"We're trying to support young drivers, not only to stimulate income, but also to make them proud of preserving the provincial cultural heritage. Not everyone can become a driver, as the job also requires taking good care of the animals," said Mrs Waleerat.

Last year the province hosted its first Lampang Carriage Carnival, in a bid to create more robust tourism revenue using its cultural identity, keeping this transport option alive.

She said each key tourism province in the North already established an annual event to draw visitors, such as the floral expo in Chiang Mai, which stimulated 80 million baht in annual spending per year. The Thailand Biennale in Chiang Rai 2023 contributed 100 million baht to the province.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand arranged a meeting between the public and private sectors of five northern provinces earlier this month to solve obstacles for second-tier tourism cities, with the Tourism Council of Lampang raising the carriage issue to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin.

The council was told the government would support the carnival, starting from this year, which is scheduled for Aug 9-12. However, the council and the Lampang Carriage Association did not receive an additional budget as promised, meaning the event might have to be scaled down this year, said Mrs Waleerat.

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