ITB 2018

Thailand moves off the beaten track

Minister wants visitors to explore different parts of the country to avoid overtourism.

March 09, 2018
Thailand is thinking outside the box with new tourism ideas.
Photo: Christian Wyrwa

Thailand’s new tourism minister is making it his mission to open the Land of Smiles to a new generation of travellers keen to see a different side to the country. Weerasak Kowsurat only took office 90 days ago, but he is already forging ahead with initiatives to attract visitors to parts of Thailand that, until now, have stayed out of the tourism spotlight.

With international arrivals predicted to reach a record 36 million this year, Kowsurat wants to prevent his country becoming a victim of its own success as travellers flock overwhelmingly to the likes of Bangkok and popular beach resorts such as Phuket.

“The biggest challenge is making a long-lasting impression on travellers to the kingdom,” he said. “We now need to instil a sense of ownership and participation in tourism among the Thai people by building a truly sustainable tourism industry.”

The strategy to spread travellers more widely is being backed by improved transport links for the newly promoted parts of the country. High-speed train lines are planned and some small regional airports will also be upgraded.

So far, 55 provinces have been identified as less visited areas where tourists can immerse themselves in local communities and culture, while the northern state of Isan is expected to benefit most from the extension of a railway line from China that will run through Thailand to the coast. Such developments will open potential for rail tourism.

The minister is also pushing “voluntourism” as part of the country’s focus on sustainability, with more visitors helping out with community projects that include beach clean-ups. The strategy to redistribute visitors also extends to the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions market with a campaign to encourage more events outside Bangkok.

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