Nan eager to attract weekday visitors

People cycling past Wat Noi in Nan. Karnjana Ayuwatanachai

Nan province aims to draw more weekday tourism to balance the number of tourists and avoid negative effects on cultural and natural resources from mass tourism.

Elderly and double-income, no-kid travellers who have freedom to visit on weekdays are among the targeted groups.

The focus means the province will rely more on quality tourists to create sustainable tourism, said Panuwat Katnak, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) office in Nan.

He said most visitors prefer road transport, facilitated by the four-lane road expansion project between Rong Kwang district in Phrae province and Nan.

The number of visitors via air has declined after Nok Air terminated its route from Bangkok to Nan this April, leaving only AirAsia offering four flights a day.

"The reduction in flights has decreased visitors, especially during the holidays," Mr Panuwat said.

He is confident that the winter season will attract more travellers during the remaining months of the year, as there are positive signs from hotels.

The occupancy rate during the long holiday of Oct 12-14 for the province's 3,200 rooms is high at 90% and will bring the average rate for the rest of the year to over 70%.

Surapon Thiansoot, mayor of Nan municipality, said cleanliness, safety and the slow life have attracted tourists, particularly elderly who travel in groups.

They seek a peaceful tourism experience that makes them feel nostalgia for old cities like Nan, which was dubbed an "old town" of historic importance in 2005.

The municipality recently received a Hall of Fame award at the 12th Thailand Tourism Awards, or Kinnari Award, after winning the Kinnari Gold award three times from the TAT.

In 2017, Nan also received support from the National Economic and Social Development Council and the Japan International Cooperation Agency to draft projects as a sustainable city.

The projects include establishment of the Nan Cultural Center in 2018 to connect tourists to community-based tourism by using bicycles and outdoor lighting designs in many areas in the city.

The lighting projects, designed by the architecture faculty of Chulalongkorn University, are meant to enhance safety and attract tourists.

Some 939,240 tourists visited Nan last year, up 4.4% year-on-year, contributing 2.6 billion baht in tourism income, a gain of 8.3%. A full 97% of them were Thais, of whom 62% were repeat visitors. Just 3% were foreign tourists from the US, France, China, Japan and Laos.

Mr Panuwat expects 1 million tourists this year and a 10% rise in income.

According to the Tourism and Sports Ministry, Nan welcomed 643,129 tourists during the first eight months this year, up 0.2% year-on-year, generating 1.94 billion baht in income, up 2.1%.