New Minister of Tourism and Sports to focus on local communities
Thailand’s new Minister of Tourism and Sports was announced last week and Weerasak Kowsurat has already mapped out new focus areas of tourism aimed at expanding tourism and revenues from tourism. The Minister wants to increase tourism to local communities that will help villagers to generate income for people in the villages. The Minister is looking to promote tourism to what they call second and third tier destinations, those destinations outside the major destinations of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Phuket, and Krabi. He plans on reviving the Tourism Clinic which was created several years ago to help improve damaged attractions and to help local people develop unique products. Mr. Weerasak has been active in the tourism industry for years, holding positions as the chairman of the Designed Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration, the chairman of the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau, the chairman of Tourism Authority of Thailand and the chairman of the Sports Authority of Thailand. Hoteliers expressed optimism that his extensive experience will help strengthen the sector and encouraged him to continue the focus on unique local products from the village level.
Krabi airport will be getting a new baggage handling system as well as common-use check in systems enabling all kiosks to handle all passengers from any airline as part of upgrades planned for Krabi, Udon Thani, and Surat Thani. Kohn Kaen, Ubon Ratchatani and Nakhon Si Thammarat airports are also in the scheduled upgrades as part of the Department of Airports “Smart Airports plan”. Currently the Krabi airport handled 4 million passengers in 2016, double the amount of Surat Thani and Udon Thani airports. The Department of Airports, which oversees these three internationally registered airports along with 25 other airports nationwide, is also in talks to add automatic passport screening machines to ease passenger congestion as well as new luggage handling systems that will screen in-line and screen for explosives too. The Department is looking to add automated boarding pass scanning systems as well. The Airports of Thailand, which operates the two airports in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket and Hat Yai, is looking to expand the airports in Tak and Udon Thani, upgrading passenger terminals and expanding runways.
Star Cruises will begin running cruises to Samui and Sihanoukville in Cambodia from Laem Chambang Port in Chonburi starting this month. The cruises are expected to run on weekends from December 17 through to April 27, 2018 and will cater to Thai and foreign residents, and tourists looking for short weekend hops around the region. The company will consider expanding services to other ports of call if consumers respond to positively to the route. Currently several cruise liners operate out of Thailand, including Laem Chabang, Koh Samui, and Phuket as well as many that include Thailand on their routes. The Thai government is looking to develop infrastructure for high end cruise ships. Cruise tourism is expanding in ASEAN, the average cruise visitor spends 6,174 baht a day compared to the average of 4,000 baht a day by foreign tourists.