Flooding in North had little impact on tourism: dept
The flood disaster in Northern provinces has not had any lasting negative impact on the Kingdom's tourism industry, as that region plays a relatively small role in attracting foreign visitors, according to the Department of Tourism.Sukhothai is an example; it draws primarily a specific group of tourists interested in its historical attractions. Their numbers are marginal when compared with the overall tourism industry, in which the sunny beaches of Pattaya, Phuket, and the sprawling islands of the South attract a far wider group.
Also, 80 per cent of tourists are individuals who have searched for trip information by themselves. They understand what is happening now in terms of flood control and believe the existing water-management system will help the country cope, said Anuparp Kasornsuwan, the department's deputy director.
However, the agency will not be careless and is closely monitoring the situation to ensure the safety of its tourism sites. In addition, it will communicate with foreigners to boost their confidence while travelling in the Kingdom.
He said it was hard to estimate the loss of tourism revenue in the flood-damaged areas, but the department was renovating the damaged sites as fast as possible in cooperation with relevant state agencies such as the Department of Fine Arts. So far, 95 per cent of the sites hit by last year's flood have been renovated completely.
Anuparp is confident that the tourism industry is still on the rise. This year, the Kingdom will welcome at least 20 million visitors, who will drop Bt800 billion into the economy.
Last year, 19.23 foreign tourists came to Thailand and they spent Bt776 billion.
In the first eight months of this year alone, the number of foreign tourists totalled Bt14.3 million, an 8.66-per-cent increase year on year.
In 2015, tourism revenue is expected to reach Bt2 trillion.
He said the department was playing a key role in building confidence among foreign tourists, especially on safety and service-standardisation issues.
For example, the agency has worked with local and tourist police to help take care of foreign visitors' safety, especially the capture of criminal gangs. Also, closed-circuit surveillance cameras have been installed in major tourist cities.
The Department of Tourism is working hard to improve service standardisation before the opening of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 as part of its plan to improve the country's competitiveness over rivals.
Anuparp believes that Thailand can maintain its leading performance in regional tourism if it plays an active role as a centre to connect with other destinations in Southeast Asia.
However, domestic troubles should be resolved as well. Among them are the need to increase airport capacities and improve the productivity of immigration officers. English-language skills should be improved among people working in the industry, he said.