Despite the political crisis of the past several years, Bangkok is still considered one of the top tourist destinations in the world.
According to the latest MasterCard survey, Bangkok ranks No 2 in global top destinations with 16.42 million international overnight visitors this year, while London took over the top rank with 18.69 million.
They are followed by Paris, Singapore and Dubai. Bangkok and London have been vying for the crown for years.
Another interesting insight from the survey is that Bangkok boasts a much diversified network of feeder cities and origin countries.
The top five feeder cities are all in the Asia-Pacific region – Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Shanghai – while 42 per cent of visitors to Bangkok come from outside the region. This explains why Bangkok is well known for its resilience as a tourist powerhouse.
Hotel investors still hold a bullish view of the Bangkok market even though room rates remain low and the immediate return on investment is not impressive.
In fact, over the past several years, Bangkok has consistently boosted its supply of hotel rooms, with growth reaching a high of 10 per cent this year.
According to a forecast for the next three years, this trend is set to continue but at a more leisurely pace. If arrivals multiply as projected, room rates are likely to improve.
Having been the No 1 destination for visitors sounds positive, but whether it will generate maximum benefit for the country will depend on the strategy to draw the right groups of visitors.
The focus should be on the middle to high-end segments of the market.
Thailand excels in offering the most value for money for wide ranges of the market.
It has the right fundamentals to regain its rank as the top tourist destination in the world with its wonderful nature, historical riches, enchanting culture, and the hospitality and friendliness of its people as well as the development of a sophisticated urban lifestyle.
However, compared with the other top four tourist destinations, our country is not as competitive, especially in aiming for the high-end segment, in the areas of safety, efficiency and environmental protection.
The infrastructure development plan for trains, mass transit, road networks, expressways and other transport modes should continue. Suvarnabhumi Airport was built to process up to 45 million passengers a year, but arrivals from 2012-13 passed the 50 million mark, causing overcrowding at the airport and some flight delays. The second phase of the airport development project, which was due to be completed in 2017, will expand capacity to 60 million.
Not only is the improvement of infrastructure crucial for tourists but also safety and security. The junta’s initiatives to crack down on the mafia network and tidy up transport in the capital, such as taxis and tuk-tuks, as well as to implement measures for the safety and welfare of the people are a good start.
It has been proved that nothing is impossible and many improvements could happen in a short period of time if there is real and effective implementation of laws, rules and regulations.
Thailand has enjoyed an enviable position as the leading Southeast Asian destination with an exceptionally high level of repeat visitors. This position is not guaranteed and the government is the only authority that can help protect that position in certain areas such as safety and security, infrastructure and environmental protection.