The A-B-C of Thailand’s New Tourism Plan

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At the recently concluded Thailand Travel Mart (TTM), held this year at Na Jomtien, south of Pattaya, the Tourism Authority of Thailand spelt out a clear “A-B-C Strategy”, focusing on the country’s emerging destinations.

Mr Klissada Ratanapruk, TAT’s Executive Director for ASEAN, South Asia and South Pacific elaborated on the A-B-C concept to visiting media.

Additional: Linking major and emerging cities. In the north, for example, tourists can travel within an hour to Lamphun and Lampang from Chiang Mai. Or, on the eastern seaboard, Pattaya-Jomtien links easily to Chanthaburi and Trat, and so on.

Brand New: Promoting emerging, popular destinations in their own right, such as Buri Ram in the northeast with both its rich Khmer heritage and the very contemporary Chang International motor-racing circuit.

Combined: Combining emerging cities. For example, Sukhothai, Phitsanulok and Kamphaeng Phet make an outstanding history-themed route, while Nakhon Si Thammarat and little-known Phatthalung reveal a rich southern Thailand civilisation.

Meanwhile, Mr. Tanes Petsuwan, TAT Deputy Governor for Marketing Communications, noted that the theme of this year’s TTM+ 2019, “New Shades of Emerging Destinations”, reiterates TAT’S long-standing policy to promote emerging destinations in order to distribute tourism development away from already popular sites.

He revealed that 55 emerging Thai destinations have been identified, offering new experiences for both international and domestic markets. In 2018, these Thai destinations recorded over six million trips by foreign tourists, an impressive one-year growth of +4.95 percent.

Mrs. Srisuda Wanapinyosak, TAT Deputy Governor of International Marketing noted that this year’s TTM total of 340 buyers from 51 countries is up 18.47% over 2018. The sellers’ list includes 370 exhibitors, principally from the Southern and Central regions of Thailand, plus a special listing of 20 from emerging destinations.

The three-day TTM+ 2019 event was held at the Ocean Marina Yacht Club, the largest marina in Southeast Asia, from 5 June, after which buyers and media departed for post-tours to Chonburi, Rayong, Chantaburi, the Eastern Seaboard and Cambodia.

Break-out forums delivered by divergent, non-TAT experts included sessions on the rather Trumpian-titled, “Thailand: The Greatest Story in Global Tourism HiSTORY”, “Food Innopolis, Innovation for Economic Growth”, “Slumdog Millionaire, the Transformation of Khlong Toei” and the hard-hitting “Fun at Any Cost? Tourism vs. Environment”.

The latter event was delivered by articulate young Thai photographer and marine biologist, Sirachai Shin Arunrugstichai, a specialist in ocean and coastal conservation. Refusing to sugar-coat the industry pill he addressed frankly several of the nation’s hot-button “over-marine-tourism” destinations (and several interim solutions), including Maya Bay in the Phi Phi Islands, Phuket’s Mai Khao and the Similan Islands. Added to that are the worldwide issues of depletion of fish stocks, coral bleaching and ubiquitous plastic pollution.

He challenged us to consider the elephant-in-the-room: the extent to which the tourism industry bears responsibility for damaging the marine environment; and what it can do to alleviate the problem? In short, how long can tourism (here or anywhere) be about “Fun at Any Cost?”

No TAT annual big bash is complete without a rip-roaring party. And so it was that the deceptively-titled “Welcome Reception” at Na Jomtien’s Alexa Beach Club turned out to be a vast buffet feast, plus liquid refreshments, accompanied by extraordinary drumming ensembles — garbed firstly, electrically, in ultraviolet light and LEDs, and then, as frenetic “water drummers” in protective raincoats. A knock-‘em-dead seven-person Thai rock group then closed the show with an exhilarating one-hour (plus-plus) set that left the audience rocking barefoot on the beach.

Written By John Borthwick