Disaster cave to be next tourist attraction

It is currently a disaster scene as search teams try to safely extract the football team and coach, but the Tourism Authority of Thailand plans to promote the Tham Luang cave as a tourist attraction as soon as the boys are out. (Photo via Google Maps)

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) plans to promote Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai as a key attraction after days in the spotlight, with the missing football team of 13 being found alive Monday night.

Karuna Dechatiwong, TAT director at the Chiang Rai office, said TAT will work with local authorities and the private sector to promote the cave and other attractive nearby venues as it anticipates a number of tourists will flock to the area in the near future.

"After the rescue team found the 12 young football players and their coach on Monday night, the cave has become of interest for both local and foreign travellers," Ms Karuna said.

She said people may want travel and activity information before visiting the area, and the agency is ready to work out a route to the cave and other destinations in Chiang Rai.

The tranquil and beautiful cave at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Mae Sai district is suited for the summer season, but permission from authorities is needed before entering the rainy season.

Initially, TAT is considering creating a new route not only to promote the cave but also nearby communities such as a village that makes mulberry tree paper, an Isan Lanna community, and a community that produces seed tea.

All the communities are located along the road in between Chiang Rai town and the shared border town of Mae Sai.

TAT will ask local administrations to prepare tourism management, improve safety standards and upgrade services, she said.

The mountain range of Khun Nam Nang Non, or Lagoon of the Sleeping Lady, where Tham Luang cave is located. (Creative Commons, via Wikipedia)

The promotion of Chiang Rai province as an adventure destination was also floated by Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat and Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osot-Thanakorn. The two also talked with hotels and transport companies in Chiang Rai to arrange an appreciation trip specifically for the rescue teams.

TAT Chiang Rai reported the province attracted 2.7 million tourists last year and generated tourism income of nearly 30 billion baht. The number of visitors is expected to increase gradually as the province also plans to promote elderly tourism along with adventure and cross-border tourism.

Earlier this year, the renovated river port in Chiang Saen was opened to serve higher demand from southern China.

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