AS THE GOVERNMENT plans to use its “Thailand 4.0” policy to escape from a middle-income gap and make the nation a high-income country, one of the key economic drivers – tourism – needs to accelerate its strategy to cope with the change, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) says.
Tourism contributes about 20.6 per cent of Thailand’s gross domestic product, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of TAT, told Krungthep Turakij newspaper that tourism was the industry that had come closest to the Thailand 4.0 goals in terms of high income generation and distribution.
Moreover, tourism enhances the Thai economy while maintaining the country’s traditions, culture and identity as well as valuing nature, he said.
According to the WTCC, the world’s tourism landscape will be changed by 2020 when more than 1.6 billion people will travel. Of that total, 416 million tourists will travel to the Asia-Pacific region, where Thailand is a key player.
If Thailand’s tourist numbers continue to grow at the Asia-Pacific rate of 6.5 per cent per year, it will welcome 41.5 million visitors in 2020. And if the growth figure returns to its past record of 15 per cent per annum, visitor numbers will leap to 71 million that year. It will be the first time the numbers of tourists and locals will be equal.
TAT believes this growth must be driven by innovation, technology, creativity and public-private cooperation under the Pracha Rath programme to build up strength from within at the local level before connecting to the world economy, using the nation’s strengths in cultural services, biological diversity and long-standing culture.
TAT says it will move towards Thailand 4.0 with five mechanisms: sustainable tourism management; development of environmental factors and infrastructure to support tourism; modern marketing for future changes; establishment of tourism enterprises and start-ups based on innovation; and an efficient network of private and public agencies here and overseas throughout the tourism supply chain.
While the environmental factors will be taken into account as tourism infrastructure is developed, modern marketing will work to keep pace with technology and fast communications.
Existing markets will be retained, while new markets will be sought out, instead of competing for customers.
Establishing a cooperative network will involve distributing the benefits of tourism benefits back to local areas and promoting community participation.
Aside from preparing for expected higher numbers of tourists, Thailand may also have to prepare itself for structural changes in its own population, such as a higher proportion of elderly people, which will complicate marketing.