By Ben Ireland in Chiang Mai
Thailand needs to embrace its regions and infrastructure to keep up with is exponential growth in tourism, the executive director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has said.
Speaking at Thai Travel Mart in Chiang Mai, Pataraporn Sithivanich said convincing Thai communities outside of popular landing spots like Bangkok and Phuket that tourism can help them grow rather than impacting their traditional way of life was key to driving sustainable tourism.
She added that it was important that the conversation was both ways, so that Thai people “educate” tourists when they visit their countries.
Sithivanich welcomed a “global trend” of experiential tourism. She said: “When tourists come to local communities they learn about our values, and the communities learn their values too. We are showing them [tourists] the world and bringing the world to Thailand.
“We don’t just value the number of tourists, we value the quality of tourism too.”
Thailand has seen a 6% growth from the British market, with more than one million tourists flocking to the country in 2016 with an average stay of 17 days.
Of the British tourists to go to Thailand, 66% are repeat visitors. Sithivanich said that it is those tourists that are visiting “secondary sites” for more tailor-made, personalised holidays.
Sithivanich also said that to meet “ambitious” passenger growth targets set by the Thai government, infrastructure is “vital”. She added that major upgrades of Phuket and Chiang Mai airports are examples of the investment Thailand has made to meet the tourism demands of the next couple of decades.
Sithivanich added that “continual improvements” and extensions of the MRT (underground) and BTS (over ground) train services and airport rail links were “progressing well”.