Mrs. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Minister of Tourism and Sports of Thailand, delivered the following speech at the “Thailand Briefing Networking Lunch” on 6 November, 2017, which was held as part of Thailand’s participation at the WTM 2017 in London, UK.
Sawasdee kha, good morning, distinguished guests, members of the media, ladies and gentlemen.
On behalf of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports of Thailand and the Thai tourism industry, I would like to extend to you a warm welcome. This is my fourth time at the World Travel Market (WTM), and I am truly overwhelmed by your support for Thailand. Thank you for sparing your valuable time to be with us today.
We recognise the significance of the WTM as one of the world’s most important travel trade events. This is Thailand’s thirty-seventh year of participation. I am proud to recognise the unparalleled contribution of this great event in developing European travel to Thailand, as well as to the global travel and tourism industry at large.
- The Success of Hosting WTTC 2017
Thailand’s recent hosting of the 2017 World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit from 26-27 April impressed world leaders in the tourism industry and helped showcase the kingdom as world quality leisure destination for more new investments but also our ability to organise seamless large-scale meetings and to cater to the needs of high-profile delegates and ensure successful events with a touch of unique local Thai experiences. The WTTC’s selection of Thailand and Bangkok for this memorable conference gave us a chance to showcase what the kingdom as well as ASEAN is all about. It was indeed an honour for the Thai government and the Thai people to host the event. We learned a lot from experts, roundtable discussions, and Q and A sessions. The first-class planning and high-tech meeting facilities will also go a long way towards helping Thailand better position itself as the hub of business events in the region.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Next year will see the Thai travel and tourism industry move into a new era of development. For nearly 60 years, thanks to the support of all our friends and partners globally, the Thai travel and tourism industry has assumed a new status as a nationwide movement that has yielded significant benefits for our national security, the wealth distribution economy, inclusive society, well-being and foreign relations. The widespread distribution of income to all parts of the country has helped reduce social disparities. Our goal now is to make travel and tourism more sustainable, focus on quality tourism, value-addedness using the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy taught by our beloved the late king Rama IX, and maintain a balance between the economy, society and the environment.
It should be apparent to many of you industry veterans who have been in this industry for, many years that each year we are all dealing with a constantly new set of challenges. Yet at the end of the day achieve our sustainable growth.
These are global, regional and national issues cutting across geopolitical, economic, social, cultural and technological sectors. The scale, depth and speed of these challenges is becoming quite overwhelming, especially for policy-makers and planners.
Travel and tourism is one sector that is affected by all these challenges. Today, we stand at a crucial juncture for Thai tourism. Perhaps the best way to describe it would be to refer to as the good news-bad news” juncture.
The good news is that the number of foreign tourists visiting Thailand rose nearly 9 per cent to 32.6 million in 2016, bringing in 1.64 trillion Baht worth of business, up nearly 13 per cent from 2015. Those are undoubtedly impressive figures and ones that give me, as Minister for Tourism and Sports, enormous satisfaction because it reflects consumer confidence in our products, services and most important, our people.
On the other hand, we have to accept that this growth is putting enormous pressure on our infrastructure and our environment. This is what will be at the forefront of our tourism development agenda in future.
The guiding light will be the Thailand 4.0 national development strategy, which is now underpinning everything that we do in travel and tourism. We believe that our vibrant sector is perfect for ensuring the success of the overall 4.0 national strategy. Indeed, it could be argued that travel and tourism is the only economic sector that contributes to all five sectors under Thailand 4.0: 1) health and wellness, 2) food and agriculture, 3) smart devices and robotics, 4) digital technology and Internet of Things, as well as 5) creative, culture and high-value services. In addition, we have enormous potential for creating jobs nationwide and contributing to a more equitable and well-balanced development process.
To complement the government’s vision of Thailand 4.0, we need to strike a balance on three fronts. Of course, we aim to maintain the growth in tourist numbers and revenue. At the same time, we need to ensure that our product remains worth buying across all fronts. This means preserving our heritage, ensuring safety and security, protecting the environment and much more. Visitors do not want to come to Thailand to experience rubbish-strewn beaches and burned-out forests that have been harvested by villagers who have not benefited from the tourism windfall.
- Objective of the Government to Boost Tourism
The Thailand 4.0 strategy has also been the basis of our Tourism Action Plan for 2018, which is a comprehensive strategy designed to maintain a strong flow of visitors in a highly competitive environment. Its overarching slogan is to ensure that Thailand remains a Preferred Destination and a delivers a Quality Product, thus boosting the average length of stay, expenditure and repeat visitation. In 2018, the marketing strategy will continue to position Thailand as a ‘Preferred Destination.’ This means whenever tourists wish to have a holiday, we hope Thailand will come up as their first choice.
On 1 November, 2017, we also launched the ‘Amazing Thailand Tourism Year 2018’ to support the national tourism development plan highlighting a busy calendar of international events. This year-long event will give our kingdom another outstanding opportunity to showcase its capabilities during many large events to be hosted in 2017 and 2018. One such event is the Fourth UNWTO Conference on Gastronomy to be held in May 2018.
These events are very important components of our overall strategy to promote “Thainess” and build a strong, equitable tourism industry that is sustainable, creates jobs, and promotes distribution of income to the emerging destinations in the rural areas.
The Ministry of Tourism and Sports is now working to create awareness of the homeland, build a sense of local pride, and love and understanding of Thailand. One very important aspect of that is to implement projects that encourage people to be good hosts and local communities. This is our way of ensuring the actual implementation of our policies. We are determined to walk the talk.
For example, the Thailand Tourism Awards 2017, which were conferred last September, honoured 110 Thai companies, nearly all of whom were small to medium-sized businesses, especially in the hotel and tour operator sectors. They were geographically spread out nationwide across some of Thailand’s best known tourism destinations and attractions and recognised for their unique representation of Thai local experiences. The Awards also helped grow global awareness about the quality of Thailand’s dynamic tourism offering.
Another project, launched in 2016, is called “Village to the World”. This public-private partnership has been designed to showcase the potential of 10 Thai communities as venues for Corporate Social Responsible (CSR) schemes. The programme has invited companies to take part in volunteer activities that could generate at least a million Baht of income for each village in 2017. It will also give big businesses a chance to enhance their brand via tourism-related CSR activities. Each village and community in Thailand can offer something unique to visitors, and we want to help them promote their unique selling points so that they can generate income in a sustainable manner.
Amazing Thailand Tourism Year 2018
Communication strategies for the Amazing Thailand Tourism Year 2018, and all its various activities, can be categorised into 4S: Saneh or Charm (as reflected in the Thai people, Thai textiles, etc.), Sanook or Joy (sports events; such as, the Air Race 1 and MotoGP), Sabai or Relaxing (Thai massage), Sut Saep or Delicious (fine street food / fine dining / Michelin star restaurants).
One other very important point I would like to mention is the close connection between tourism and sports. This linkage is very well recognised in the UK, host of the world-renowned Wimbledon tennis championship. As my Ministry is known as the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, we are working to mainstream sports through campaigns; such as, Sport for All, Exercise, Sports Tourism and Sport for Unity.
A number of international events and competitions are also coming up in Thailand in the months ahead. For example:
- Air Race 1 World Cup Thailand will be held between 17-19 November, 2017, at
U–Tapao Rayong-Pattaya International Airport, Chon Buri. U-Tapao Airport is a naval base, which is being upgraded to handle more commercial flights, both scheduled and charters. Airlines from Europe, Russia and China will find it easier to operate to this airport. It will help reduce congestion at our primary airports in Bangkok and also provide easier access to the Eastern Seaboard region destinations of Pattaya, Chon Buri, Rayong, Chantaburi and Trat.
- SportAccord Convention 2018 to be held from 15–20 April, 2018, at the Centara Grand and Bangkok Convention Centre. SportAccord Convention is the world’s premier and most exclusive annual event at the service of sport.
- MotoGP World Championship 2018; Thailand is set to get a place on the MotoGP World Championship in October 2018, at the Buri Ram Circuit. This destination, too, has been carefully chosen to promote what we call the Isan Area (Northeastern Region of Thailand.) This region will develop significantly in future, as our transport linkages with the neighbouring countries; such as, Lao PDR. and Cambodia grow further, thanks to the increased connectivity afforded by the Asian Highway network. Tourists will get to see new places, tour operators get to package new destinations and attractions, and Thailand gets an opportunity to diversify its overall distribution of visitors more equally nationwide.
To mark the fiftieth anniversary of ASEAN in 2017, the Royal Thai Navy is honoured to host an International Fleet Review to grace this occasion. Perhaps not many of you know that the foundations of ASEAN were laid in Thailand in 1967 with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration. We will mark this event on a grand scale at the International Fleet Review. More than 40 ships with a total contingent of more 10,000 crew members from ASEAN and other countries will participate in the event, to be held in Pattaya Bay between 13 – 22 November, 2017.
Today, my entire delegation and I are here to enhance our long-standing cooperation and partnership with you all. Our presence here today is not a business promotion exercise but rather as a visit to friends. The UK market will continue to play a prominent role in our inbound tourism. In spite of the challenges, there remains plenty of room for expansion, particularly in attracting the high-income segment. The Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand will tell you more about this in a few minutes.
Finally, thank all of you for joining us and for your ongoing support. No matter how much effort we put into promoting Amazing Thailand, we cannot succeed without your support.
Thank you very much and sawasdee kha.