PHATTHALUNG: The tourism association in 14 southern provinces is calling on the Transport Ministry to ease its regulations to allow tour buses from Malaysia to travel beyond the border province of Songkhla to other southern provinces.
The easing of the regulation would enable authorities to stimulate the region's economy through promotional campaigns, according to those involved in a recent forum on tourism organised by the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC).
Jarun Kaewjeesub, president of the Phatthalung Tourism Association, said participants had agreed that they needed more Malaysian tourists to visit the southern border area. More relaxed entrance rules to allow Malaysian visitors entering Songkhla to travel deeper into other southern provinces would help spread the visitors out to other areas.
The forum also decided to draft a request to be submitted to the director-general of the Department of Land Transport, asking that Malaysian visitors be allowed to visit all 14 southern provinces by tour bus.
Finally, the forum noted that the restriction covered tourists from Singapore and Indonesia too.
Hatyai Songkhla Hotels Association president Sitthiphong Sitthiphatprapha said that at least two million tourists are expected to visit Songkhla using land transport this year, which is higher than the 800,000–900,000 last year.
In April, Songchai Mungprasithichai, president of the Songkhla Tourism Promotion Association, said Hat Yai district, the commercial heart of the lower southern region in Songkhla, was the top destination for Malaysian tourists who want food-related experiences.
Most of them enter via the Sadao immigration checkpoint and likely choose Hat Yai as their weekend destination on a regular basis. The majority, or around 70%, were tour groups, he added.
Mr Songchai said the average occupancy rate should reach 70-80% during Malaysia's school holidays.
However, the province has realised it has been overly dependent on Malaysian tourists, and it would attract relatively less demand from local visitors due to high domestic travel costs.
Mr Songchai said the new government and local administrator should help to tackle high airfares and create tourist attractions in the city.