TAT governor says his successor must strive for sustainability
Suraphon Svetasreni, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), who will complete his term in December, has urged the next governor to continue striving for sustainability of the country's tourism industry and make maximum use of its own resources to reduce its dependence on the state.
One example of the country's tourism resources is its golf course, which Suraphon said should be used for maximum benefit.
Effective management will help strengthen the TAT's activities, especially in carrying out in research projects.
Suraphon said he was pleased with what he had been able to achieve since taking office in January 2010. During the past three years, he has met big challenges threatening to undermine the national tourism industry. They included violent political demonstrations in Bangkok, deadly bombings in the South, and the flood crisis in 2011.
He set up an intelligence unit to monitor news around the world. This helped the agency keep abreast of tourists' changing lifestyles.
In 2010, 15.93 million foreign tourists came to Thailand, rising to 19.23 million in 2011 and 22 million in 2012. This year, their number is projected at 24.5 million, providing tourism revenue of Bt1.149 trillion, an increase of 19 per cent from 2012.
The invitation for applications to be the new governor closed on February 15. There are two applicants, both from the TAT office - Juthaporn Rerngronasa, deputy governor for international marketing for Europe, Africa,
the Middle East and the Americas, and Thawatchai Arunyik, deputy governor for domestic marketing.
Their qualifications are being considered. If they meet the criteria, they will have to present their visions to the selection committee.
Some in the industry say the successful candidate will have to have a political connection. The TAT, which receives more than Bt5 billion a year from the government to run the office, is under the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, controlled by Chumpol Silapa-archa.
Yutthachai Soonthronrattana-vate, president of the Association of Domestic Travel, said he did not mind whether Suraphon's successor was politically involved. He favours the candidates coming from the TAT office because of their experience and knowledge of the industry they will oversee.
Trends and visions
He said the new governor must be a visionary, understanding tourism trends in all aspects, both globally and at home, because the industry is large and faces big changes. Most important, the TAT governor will have to maximise the benefits of tourism for the nation and work well with business operators to move the industry forward.
Yutthachai is happy with what the current governor has done for the industry, probably beyond expectations when considering the sensitive factors he has met. Also, Suraphon has listened to the concerns of the private sector and moved quickly to find solutions to their problems.
Suraphon said the tourism landscape in the country was changing rapidly as the region prepares to slice up the tourism cake after the Asean Economic Community comes into effect in 2015.
The evidence of this is clear as tourism booths from countries such as Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar start springing up in trade shows to compete with Thailand. Often, they observe
the Thai pavilions to learn from its real-life experience. Therefore, the TAT will have to act more strategically to keep Thailand as the hub for regional connectivity.
To do so, Thailand will have to look for new opportunities in secondary cities and new markets. Also, it will participate in more trade shows to find new customers. Harbin in China is one example - Chinese have more spending power for travel.
Suraphon is a pioneer in keeping focus on new media to communicate with tourists in the new digital era. Amid budget constraints, its cost is low but can have a big impact.