Thailand and ASEAN Tourism – Last Post from the 2017 WTTC Global Summit
There were so many interesting presentations from the 26-27 April WTTC Global Summit in Bangkok that it would take weeks to report them all. However it would be remiss of me to ignore the news from the host country Thailand and the developments which are taking place to open up tourism to all ASEAN countries.
At the summit, Linda Yueh moderated a very interesting session on Freedom to Travel – Can ASEAN Countries lead the way. Her panelists included Ms Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul Thai Minister of Tourism, Wanda Corazon Theo, Secretary of Tourism Philippines, Mas Ermieyati Samsudin Deputy Minister of Tourism and Culture Malaysia and Arief Yahya, Minister of Tourism Indonesia. Quite a panel of the leaders of ASEAN tourism’s superpowers. The direction in which they are heading is to be able to offer tourists single visa to cover all ASEAN countries – to experience an all ASEAN travel experiences. As all panelists conceded there are security concerns in a number of ASEAN countries which could delay implementation, However, it was clear that the ASEAN countries had a clear commitment for joint marketing and promotion especially for their long haul source markets in Europe, Australasia, and the Americas.
Thailand, the summit’s host country has enjoyed spectacular tourism growth over the past ten years. As Thailand’s Tourism Minister Ms Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul put it so eloquently, Thailand has mastered the art of destination resilience and has focused in projecting its many and varied attractions to appeal to tourists from many parts of the world. She and her colleague Walailak Noypayak who directs ASEAN affairs in the Tourism Authority of Thailand believe that it is a possible to strike a balance between the aggressive promotion of Thailand alone as a very diverse country but to join forces with ASEAN countries to promote tourism to the region in which all states benefit.
In 2016 Thailand attracted 32.5 million international visitors which currently makes it the leading destination in the ASEAN region. Growth has been maintained in the face of floods, episodes political instability, the Indian Ocean Tsumami and occasional acts of terrorism. TAT has developed into a global role model of a resilient national tourism organization.
The image of Thailand is always undergoing change. The diner venue for the media covering the WTTC World Summit was My Kitchen, an ultra chic, ultra modern and ultra tasty Thai restaurant set within the Siam Centre in central Bangkok which is owned and operated by SIAM PIWAT. My friends at PATA certainly picked the right spot to locate their global HQ right next door to the Siam Centre which is one of the finest shopping, dining and entertainment complexes in central Bangkok. The restaurant is next the Siam Discovery Exploratorium where locals and visitors can buy top quality good from anywhere on earth. I have been to Thailand several times now and it never ceases to amaze me that there are an infinite number of very special tourism experience to be enjoyed in this fascinating country, no wonder it attracts so many tourists.