Phitsanulok seeking to rebrand image
Phitsanulok wants to transcend its reputation as the gateway province of the North, offering new tourism products to extend tourists' length of stay.
The average length of stay for tourists in the province remains low at two days, with 3,000 baht per trip in spending, said Sobthana Anprasert, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand's (TAT) Phitsanulok office.
Normally, travellers perceive Phitsanulok as a rest area after a long drive despite a variety of reasonably priced accommodation.
The tourism agency wants to promote natural sites during the cool season such as Nakhon Chum Valley in Nakhon Thai district and rafting in the Kek River in Wang Thong district to increase visitors' stays.
He said the TAT also plans to develop a tourism route that connects Phitsanulok-Khao Kho-Phetchabun for visitors who want to experience cold weather and scenic beauty.
The occupancy rate for 7,000 rooms in Phitsanulok stood at 60% last year and 66% in 2017. But the occupancy rate is predicted to rise to 80% during long holidays such as the New Year.
Phitsanulok, one of 55 second-tier provinces, welcomed 2.9 million visitors in the first 10 months this year, up about 1% from the same period last year, and generated 7 billion baht in tourism receipts, a gain of 1.9%.
Mr Sobthana expects the number of tourists this year to reach 3.9 million from 3.6 million last year, with a 10% increase in income from 9 billion baht in 2018.
Some 91% of visitors were Thais, and the top five source markets for foreign tourists were Germany, France, Australia, Japan and Russia. About 40% of Thais who visited the province came for pleasure, while 30% came for Mice (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) business.
Pisut Yingyosruangrong, president of the Phitsanulok Tourist Business Association, said the lack of new man-made attractions and new tourism products are reasons tourists visit nearby provinces instead.
Mr Pisut said he plans to revive the community's way of life that consisted of houseboats and rafts in Muang Phitsanulok that were forced to move a decade ago.
The houseboats are a signature of Phitsanulok life along the Nan River, which has the potential to be developed into community-based tourism, with accommodation and marketplaces to sell One Tambon One Product items to attract tourists, increasing income for locals, he said.
Sports are another lure, especially running events during the last quarter, which include trail running events at Noen Maprang district and Kwai Noi Bumrungdan Dam.