Cholnan eyes Nan as ‘health city’

Cholnan eyes Nan as ‘health city’

Promotion of northern province aligns with medical tourism plans, says health minister

Representatives of people with disabilities take part in a seminar on health promotion at Wat Phumin in Muang district of Nan province on Saturday. (Photo: ThaiHealth)
Representatives of people with disabilities take part in a seminar on health promotion at Wat Phumin in Muang district of Nan province on Saturday. (Photo: ThaiHealth)

Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew plans to promote his home province of Nan as a health city prototype, emphasising universal design for accessibility, particularly for the elderly and those with disabilities.

Promoting the northern province as a health city is part of the government’s effort to make Thailand a wellness and medical hub, he said at a seminar held on Saturday by the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth), the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Nan Municipality and other groups.

The project focuses on four aspects: fashioning the country as a medical hub, health and wellness tourism, tourism for all, and equality in an ageing society.

Dr Cholnan said Thailand has already become an ageing society, with the proportion of senior citizens estimated at more than 13 million, accounting for 20% of the population.

The number of people with disabilities, meanwhile, has also increased to over 2.1 million, or 3% of the population, he said.

The minister said the project aligns with the national strategy of 2018-37 to improve Thailand’s competitiveness on the global stage by developing a wide variety of ways to draw tourists.

Target groups include elderly travellers, patients, those with disabilities, and those in need of special care such as pregnant women.

“It is also important the universal design be urgently initiated to accommodate and ensure safety for these groups of tourists,” said the minister, a native of Wiang Sa district in Nan.

Nan is one of the 10 prototype cities in Thailand to have developed facilities in public places and various tourist attractions according to a universal design concept, ThaiHealth director Pongtep Wongwatcharapaiboon said.

Dr Pongtep added that Wat Phumin, a 400-year-old temple in Nan, is one of the first tourist sites to feature a universal design that includes well-connected wheelchair ramps and elevators to the temple hall.

Krisana Lalai, president of the Friendly Design Foundation for All People, said a universal design must comply with seven principles: equitable use, flexibility, simple and intuitive use, perceptible information, tolerance for error, low physical effort, and size and space appropriation.

The scheme will expand to Udon Thani, Rayong, Phitsanulok, Ratchaburi, Kanchanaburi and Songkhla in the future.

No timeline was immediately available, nor figures on its contribution to growth.

Supharada Kandissayakul, manager of the Nan Old City Tourism Administration, said the office plans to develop the Nai Wiang area, ranked among the top 100 best tourist attractions in the world from 2020-23, into a green destination under global sustainable tourism criteria.

“To achieve such a status, we must present the long-preserved heritage as an old city as well as enable access to all people,” she said.

The authorities are also planning to propose to the coming mobile cabinet meeting that Nan be nominated as a Unesco Creative City.

“One of the province’s tourism themes — ‘liveable crafts and folk art for all’ — is evidence that Nan can compete for the World Heritage Award. In terms of environment-friendliness, Nan also has several green hotels, restaurants and temples,” Ms Supharada said.

An estimated 1.57 million visitors, 15,997 of whom were foreign tourists, visited Nan last year, generating around 4.4 billion baht in revenue.

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