Thai Tourism Authority’s Beijing director sees the development of products catering to the interests of Chinese tourists as the best way to boost China-Thailand tourism cooperation
By Tan Xingyu, Wang Jiping
With its charming tropical scenery, unique Buddhist culture and colorful folk customs, Thailand — also known as the Land of Smiles — has long been a popular destination for Chinese tourists. In the China-ASEAN Year of Tourism Cooperation, how will China and Thailand further promote such cooperation? With that and other questions in mind, China Report ASEAN sat down for an exclusive interview with Bangornrat Shinaprayoon, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Beijing Office.
> China Report ASEAN: In recent years, China and Thailand have achieved a lot in tourism exchanges and cooperation. What do you think of the bilateral cooperation in tourism?
Bangornrat: Over the last five years, a growing number of Chinese tourists have visited Thailand. China is becoming our most important tourist market and the leading source of inbound tourists. In 2016, 8.75 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand, a 10 percent increase over 2015. More than 400,000 Thai tourists visited China, also a positive upward trend.
The most popular Chinese destinations for Thai tourists are Beijing, Chengdu, Jiuzhaigou Valley, Xi’an and Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, which are known either for history and culture or for natural scenery. For Chinese tourists coming to Thailand, Bangkok, Phuket, known for its typical offshore islands, and Pattaya, a seaside resort not far from Bangkok, have always been very attractive. In recent years, with the popularity of Chinese films featuring Thailand and the availability of direct flights, Chiang Mai has also emerged as a popular destination.
>>China Report ASEAN: In promoting bilateral cooperation in tourism, what efforts have the two sides made?
Bangornrat: First of all, I think both China and Thailand have attached a lot of importance to tourism development. The governments of both countries have made joint efforts to promote tourism cooperation.
For example, last September, the two sides conducted indepth and fruitful consultations on tourism development, market regulation and joint supervision. The Ministry of Tourism and Sports of the Kingdom of Thailand signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Tourism Administration of the People’s Republic of China on strengthening cooperation in tourism market regulation. We agreed that a tourism market supervision and coordination group should be established, and the two sides should take turns in hosting a bilateral, consultative meeting on tourism market supervision at regular intervals. Such consultation would serve as a normalized communication and coordination mechanism. Meanwhile, the two sides should set up cooperation mechanisms for work coordination, promotion and training.
Secondly, Thailand has strived to provide Chinese tourists with high quality services by improving and upgrading service facilities, providing reasonably priced tourism services, promoting the systematic development of tourism and other measures.
Modern medicine has developed rapidly in Thailand, together with infrastructure and services.
>>China Report ASEAN: 2017 is the China-ASEAN Year of Tourism Cooperation. What impact do you think this special year will have on China-Thailand tourism development?
Bangornrat: First, I think the China-ASEAN Year of Tourism Cooperation will further stimulate the willingness of both sides to carry out tourism cooperation, and further promote tourism cooperation between China and Thailand, as well as between China and ASEAN as a whole. Secondly, this will help ASEAN member states promote ASEAN as a whole to be an important travel destination in the world tourism market, which means not only that “ASEAN Tourism” will become a new brand, but also that Chinese tourists will experience more diversified services and enjoy a wide variety of tourist products.
To highlight the special significance of the year, TAT will cooperate with its counterparts and media in other ASEAN countries to carry out communication and marketing promotional efforts. For example, TAT will cooperate with other ASEAN countries to jointly organize educational trips for Chinese travel agents and media to explore ASEAN tourism attractions.
>>China Report ASEAN: What tourism projects will TAT promote to Chinese tourists in 2017?
Bangornrat: More and more Chinese tourists have chosen to travel abroad, and their expectations of their overseas journeys are growing. Therefore, we would like to seek breakthroughs in the special interest field to provide Chinese tourists with more options, such as honeymoon tours, medical tours, sports tours including marathons and golf and other types. Offering such tours will be our focus this year. Meanwhile, we will actively interact and cooperate with travel agencies and media, both online and offline. We will also participate in travel shows, wedding expos and medical travel exhibitions in Beijing, Tianjin and other locations to inform Chinese tourists of our tourism projects.
Why are we promoting these projects? The main reason is that Thailand does have some strength in carrying out these projects and services. For example, Thailand enjoys a positive reputation in the world for Thai spas and ancient massage techniques. What’s more, modern medicine has developed rapidly in Thailand, together with infrastructure and services. More than 10 hospitals have been accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of International Medical and Health Institutions (JCI). Medical professionals provide good service. Some hospitals look more like five-star hotels, which makes patients feel at home. To cure an illness on a relaxed journey is what we hope tourists can achieve and enjoy on these types of medical tours