The Nation



DASTA works on raising Loei's profile as tourist destination

Phu Kradueng National Park, one of the most famous tourism destinations in Loei.

Phu Kradueng National Park, one of the most famous tourism destinations in Loei.

Province currently No 3 winter getaway for Thais

The Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (DASTA) has been working with local communities, state agencies and tourism associations in Loei to promote the province as a leisure destination and sustain its prosperity.

At present, Loei is the country's third choice among Thais for winter tourism, behind Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son. The northern province boasts unique cultural and natural sites to attract tourists the year around.

Dr Nalikatibhag Sangsnit, DASTA's director-general, said his agency had defined a 10-year strategic plan to raise Loei's tourism standards to the international level, under its slogan "Sabuy Sabuy Style Loei" or "Leisure Loei''.

For the 2012-2022 period, DASTA has a budget of about Bt3.077 billion to help strengthen various tourism aspects in Loei via 150 projects. Its aim is to grow tourist numbers by 5.96 per cent annually, with more focus on eco-tourists. Tourism revenue is projected to grow to about Bt35.5 billion by 2022, up from about Bt2.28 billion this year.

Among the highlighted destinations are Chiang Khan and Nong Hin districts.

DASTA has set up an office in the province to work with all parties to move its development projects ahead.

Supoj Wongpromtao, an official at the Loei Provincial Office of the Tourism and Sports Ministry, said tourism in the province had witnessed a big jump in recent years. In 2012, about 1.36 million tourists visited Loei, up from about 1.1 million in 2011. The province earned about Bt2.2 billion in tourism revenue last year, up from about Bt1.57 billion in 2011.

Foreigners account for 5-7 per cent of these tourists, largely Chinese and Japanese.

At present, more than 2,000 rooms are registered in the province. Most tourists stay for two days, spending Bt1,800 per trip. DASTA hopes that by 2022, stays will rise to 3.53 days on average.

However, Supoj argued that the province should strive for stable tourism growth, at the rate of 7-10 per cent annually for both visitor numbers and revenue. His major concern is the province's readiness, especially in infrastructure, accommodation and skilled labour. It faces a shortage of tour guides competent in foreign languages such as Chinese and English.

Chairat Tiyanukulmongkhon, president of the Loei Tourism Business Association, said his province had room for growth, having its own airport and being in a strategic location to connect with neighbouring nations to cash in on the opening of the Asean Economic Community in 2015. It can connect to Luang Prabang via the Tha Li Friendship Bridge, taking six hours to reach the cultural city in Laos.

Also, there is a feasibility study on constructing a cable car to Phu Kradueng National Park. If the project is approved and would have no environmental impact, it could bring three or four times as many tourists to the province.

DASTA is looking for ways to boost tourism in the province, especially with the introduction of new destinations. Recently, it joined with the Thai Eco Tourism and Adventure Travel Association to promote eight destinations, focusing on creative and low-carbon tourism. Six of them will mainly lure foreigners and the rest domestic travellers.

Packages for foreign travellers include "Colours of Mae Kong Tribal Culture" via downtown Loei, Chiang Khan, Tha Li and Dansai, taking seven days. Destinations for Thais include "Tour Ni Ngai … Chai Loei" travelling to Phu Luang, Nong Hin and downtown Loei. These destinations will be promoted at the Thailand Travel Mart and also at the World Travel Market in London next year.

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