It’s no secret that Thailand, with its vibrant cities and pristine shores, is one Southeast Asia’s most popular destinations. From adventurous travelers to those looking for a quiet home away from home, there is something for everyone willing to take the time and explore. The Tourism of Thailand (TAT) last month welcomed a new era under the new leadership of Yuthasak Supasorn, the organization’s new governor, as it moves forward to showcase more of the nation’s riches to the world. DestinAsian talks with Supasorn about his plans for TAT and some of his favorite place in the country.
How do you feel about starting in a new industry?
I am honored to have been entrusted to lead one of Thailand’s most established and important organizations, which in the last 55 years has played a pivotal role in driving the growth for the country’s tourism industry and generating income for the Thai economy.
You are the first governor of TAT to be appointed to the post from outside the organization. What have you learned in your previous experiences outside of the tourism industry that will be applicable in your new role?
Looking from outside in, I recognize tourism as one of Thailand’s main revenue generators with the kingdom looking set to generate more than 2.2 trillion Baht by the end of 2015. I also realize that in order to come this far and achieve this goal, the entire tourism industry has and must always work hand in hand with everyone involved, including other government agencies, the private sector, and partners abroad. I’d like to build on TAT’s strong foundation to ensure its position as a key and effective organization to boost growth and drive Thailand’s tourism to sustainability.
With my previous experiences from outside TAT, especially in the food and communication industries, I’ve also established plenty of connections and networks with various organizations, which will be an advantage for TAT when working and cooperating with them to achieve our future goals.
What do you see as the biggest challenge in the country’s tourism industry at the moment?
Thailand has mostly been known as a value-for-money destination. This is a challenge for us and therefore TAT’s marketing plan for 2016 will emphasize on the kingdom as a “quality leisure destination through Thainess.” Under this plan, we have clear strategies to enhance visitor expenditure, average length of stay, and the overall quality of the visitor experience through proactive marketing to niche markets, namely luxury travellers, wedding and honeymoon, health and wellness, sports tourism, and green tourism.
What is your priority?
In the short term (six months), TAT is working to restore global confidence on Thailand as a safe and secure destination through regular updates on the real situation through our local and international offices. Moreover, TAT has placed emphasis on integrating its internal working system as well as enhancing cooperation with other related tourism organizations.
How does Thailand as a destination stand out among other Southeast Asian destinations?
Considering Thailand’s geographical location, you will find that it offers convenient access to our neighboring countries, not only by land, but also by air and sea. This advantage will support the idea of AEC connectivity that will attract more tourists to the emerging destinations. Also, the current emphasis on promoting the kingdom’s unique entity or Thainess has already helped make the country stand out among other Southeast Asian destinations.
Who is your biggest market for tourism to date, and how do you see the market evolving?
Asia provides the largest share of tourist arrivals to Thailand, and in the top five are China, Japan, Malaysia, Korea, and Russia. The Middle East market has witnessed a significant growth as well. We are anticipating more first-time visitors from these markets, and at the same time we intend to be more aggressive in our marketing and publicity activities to attract repeat visitors, especially in the niche segments mentioned earlier.
How has the bombing at the Erawan Shrine affected Thai tourism?
The recent explosion incident in Bangkok is anticipated to have only a short-term impact on Thai tourism as once the situation returns to normal and the perpetrators are brought to justice, the confidence in Thailand as a safe and secure destination will be restored. We are confident to reach the target of 28.8 million in international arrivals by the end of this year.
What would you say are the current trends in the travel industry and how is TAT adapting to them?
We’ve noticed a growth in the number of female tourists. According to the international visitor arrivals’ profile, there is a higher percentage of female travelers compared to male in certain source markets, such as Malaysia and Russia. In line with this trend, TAT has recently appointed Pornanong Phatlum as Thailand’s Golf Brand Ambassador to promote the country as a world-class golf destination for women.
Green tourism has also become another growing trend. Thailand is rich with greenery and natural resources as well as a community-based tourism to serve the need of tourists. In relation to this, TAT will place more emphasis on promoting tourism to local destinations with an aim of boosting revenue for the local community as well as build on the awareness of the unique identity of each destination. Thailand will also be hosting the PATA Travel Mart Adventure 2016 in Chiang Rai, which will become the stage to showcase green tourism in the Asia-Pacific region.
What new programs can we look forward to from TAT next year?
Next year, TAT will introduce the “12 hidden gems plus” or twin destinations. This follows the success of the 12 hidden gems project, which has helped inject tourism revenue of more than 3.5 billion Baht into these secondary tourist destinations. These destinations include the “12 hidden gems” with its nearby tourist spots; such as, Lampang with Lamphun, Loei with Chaiyaphum, Trang with Rayong, and Ratchaburi with Suphan Buri.
Last but not least, what’s your favorite place to visit in Thailand?
I would recommend Roi Et province, my birthplace, in northeast Thailand. The province is rich with unique cultures and traditions. Around early March every year, the region holds the Bun Phawet Fair, which is a good opportunity to experience traditional Thai life and witness the Buddhist ceremony, with parades that narrate the story of Buddha as well as shows and culinary treats to add to the festivities.
For more information, visit the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
This post is published in partnership with the Tourism Authority of Thailand.