Thailand plans to shift its focus from chasing visitor numbers to increasing the amount of money travellers spend during their stay in the country.
In a passionate speech at the Thai Travel Mart Plus (TTM+) show in Chiang Mai, tourism minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul promoted community-based tourism and a need to spread wealth across the country.
The minister said it was in villages and on islands where tourists could find “truly unique” experiences and come away with an understanding of Thailand’s culture and heritage.
Increasing the “quality” of tourism and the length of visitors’ stay would ease the pressure on visitor numbers and help make the country’s tourism industry more sustainable, she added.
Wattanavrangkul said there are now 264 community-based tourism projects and that a further 99 would open in the next year.
The theme for this year’s TTM+ was Unique Thai Local Experiences. The show featured floating islands, voluntourism, soft adventure and more-extreme activities such as jungle zip wires. It also promoted local arts and crafts and gastronomy.
With 66% of British tourists who visit Thailand repeat visitors, the country wants to promote its “secondary sites” to appeal to those looking for personalised and tailor-made breaks.
Pataraporn Sithivanich, executive director EMEA for the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said: “When tourists come to local communities they learn about our values, and the communities learn their values too. We are showing them [tourists] the world and bringing the world to Thailand.
“We don’t just value the number of tourists, we value the quality of tourism too.”