Tourists at the Full Moon Party (Library image)

THE THAI Tourism industry is on the right track but needs to be well managed in terms of infrastructure capacity, faster immigration processing and developing new tourist destinations, says the chairman of Dusit International.

Chanin Donavanik, chairman of Thailand’s leading hotel-chain operator, said yesterday that it was conceivable that the country would welcome between 34 million and 35 million foreign tourists this year.

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“But the authorities should turn their focus on quality control and management both at the main international airports and at each tourist destination.”

Current airport capacity does not appear to be sufficient for the expected influx of international travellers. Chanin pointed to the newly opened terminal at Phuket International Airport as an example, as the airport hit full capacity from Day 1. Another example is Suvarnabhumi Airport, which exceeded its planned maximum capacity more than five years ago.

A new midfield terminal project is under construction, and is expected to be completed in the near future, but he said: “This project development might be too late to accommodate increasing passenger traffic once it is completed.”

Slow immigration processing at the key airports is another issue that should be addressed, as it might hurt the country’s image as well as the promotion of Thailand for mass tourism.

“We should shift our focus from being a value-for-money destination to a high-quality one in order to give business operators in the tourism and hospitality sectors more room to increase their prices,” he said.

However, he acknowledged that the government had initiated several impressive policies to improve the country’s image, such as a crackdown against zero-dollar tours from China, controlling illegal hotel operators, and limiting tourist numbers in environmentally sensitive areas.

Chanin also suggested that the government should develop more tourism destinations to meet increasing demand from both local and overseas travellers, particularly appealing to Asian countries where more than 200 million middle-class people now reside and are keen on travelling outside their homelands.

As well, he said, creating a new generation of tourism entrepreneurs would be a way of maintaining this industry as one of the most important in the Kingdom. It employs more than 6 million workers, almost 15 per cent of the total population. The tourism industry also contributes 17 per cent of Thailand’s gross domestic product.

To support its educational role in the tourism industry, Dusit International has partnered with Bangkok Bank, Boon Rawd Brewery, Central Group, Chiva-Som International Health Resort, Jim Thompson, Siam Piwat, Thai Airways and the Tourism Authority of Thailand to publish a new book, “Thailand Tourism: The Early Days”. The book details the history of the tourism industry here as well as the pioneers in the early age of Thai tourism six decades ago.

The 181-page book aims to inspire readers, particularly younger people, and encourage hospitality students to discover inspiring stories in the past.

The book will be available at Asia Books and all Dusit hotels in the country from next month. Chanin said all proceeds from sales of the book would be donated to the Royal Project Foundation in remembrance of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

-The Nation