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Experts question long-term tourism policy: Quality vs Quantity

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Experts question long-term tourism policy: Quality vs Quantity
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Experts say the government needs to get serious on the long-term development of the tourism industry, and decide whether quality or quantity – that is, sheer numbers of tourists or how much they spend – is of most importance.

According to Ben Montgomery, chairwoman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association’s Thailand Chapter, PATA’s latest marketing study suggests Thailand could see 50 million annual arrivals by the end of the decade, double the 24.8 million it welcomed last year.

She said the association was concerned about the possible long-term impacts of such an influx, placing a strain on the country’s resources and triggering social problems. Ben and other tourism experts

imagePATA chairwoman Ben Montgomery

question whether the Kingdom can guarantee that many people a pleasant and safe experience during their stay.

Serious attention to this matter was given last week at a discussion panel hosted by the PATA Thailand Chapter, which concluded that the tourism industry needed critical analysis and careful interpretation.

“Do we still need to have millions of Chinese tourists? Or do we want more tourists coming to Phuket, where demand is more than supply and Phuket Airport is already full? These are some of the problems the government should consider,” Ben said.

PATA also suggested that the government decide whether to focus on the number of tourists or their quality before it completes a new national tourism master plan.

John Koldowski, a tourism expert from Thammasat University’s College of Innovation, said it must be remembered that demand forecasts may not necessarily equate with actual results because of a multitude of intervening factors during the forecast period.

He added that the implications were very clear as Thailand continues to hold a commanding position as a desirable destination, based on this level of potential demand.

International arrivals to Thailand in the last quarter of 2014 rebounded and brought the year-end total to almost 24.8 million, still a decline of 6.7 per cent year-on-year, but very much better than what was anticipated halfway through the year. Furthermore, that result was still close to 11 per cent higher than the inbound volume received in 2012.

The early results for 2015 are heartening, as daily arrivals into both of Bangkok’s airports were 18 per cent above last year’s figures for the first six weeks of the year, and the trends currently look to be improving.

During the PATA event, attendees heard about the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s plans to focus more intently on emerging Eastern European markets in the future with the planned opening of a TAT office in Prague. Meanwhile, the Tourism Council of Thailand is interested in South Africa as a future growth market for the Kingdom.

A key issue raised at the session was whether the current ways tourism flows into and around Thailand are measured and reported will be sufficient in the future, especially as regional tourism becomes a more recognisable force under the Asean Economic Community.

This generated some challenging dialogue and resulted in some of the suggestions being proposed for deeper consideration and evaluation beyond just an arrivals count and/or profitability.

The panel noted that tourism and related businesses created jobs in under-served and rural areas as well as increasing business opportunities. However, tourism’s social, environmental and economic impacts must be effectively measured if it is to be properly managed for the benefit of the people.

Ben said Thailand needed to take a hard look at the tourism industry, not only where it is now but also where it is going and what should be done to strengthen this sector of the economy in a sustainable and ethical manner.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Governments & old media versus social media – who will win? | VIDEO

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We look at the recent changes made by the Australian and Indian governments to except control over the world’s biggest social media platforms. India has issued strict new rules for Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms just weeks after the Indian government attempted to pressure Twitter to take down social media accounts it deemed, well, anti social. There is now an open battle between the rise of social media platforms and the governments and ‘old’ media that have been able to maintain a certain level of control over the ‘message’ for the last century. Who will win?

The rules require any social media company to create three roles within India… a “compliance officer” who ensures they follow local laws; a “grievance officer” who addresses complaints from Indian social media users; and a “contact person” who can actually be contacted by lawyers and other aggrieved Indian parties… 24/7.

The democratisation of the news model, with social media as its catalyst, will continue to baffle traditional media and governments who used to enjoy a level of control over what stories get told. The battles of Google and Facebook, with the governments of India and Australia will be followed in plenty of other countries as well.

At the root of all discussions will be the difference between what governments THINK social media is all about and the reality about how quickly the media landscape has changed. You’ll get to read about it first, on a social media platform… probably on the screen you’re watching this news story right now.

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The social media giants in battle with ‘old’ media and world governments | VIDEO

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“The rules signal greater willingness by countries around the world to rein in big tech firms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter that the governments fear have become too powerful with little accountability.”

India has issued strict new rules for Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms just weeks after the Indian government attempted to pressure Twitter to take down social media accounts it deemed, well, anti social.

The rules require any social media company to create three roles within India… a “compliance officer” who ensures they follow local laws; a “grievance officer” who addresses complaints from Indian social media users; and a “contact person” who can actually be contacted by lawyers and other aggrieved Indian parties… 24/7.

The companies are also being made to publish a compliance report each month with details about how many complaints they’ve received and the action they took.

They’ll also be required to remove ‘some’ types of content including “full or partial nudity,” any “sexual act” or “impersonations including morphed images”

The democratisation of the news model, with social media as its catalyst, will continue to baffle traditional media and governments who used to enjoy a level of control over what stories get told.

The battles of Google and Facebook, with the governments of India and Australia will be followed in plenty of other countries as well.

At the root of all discussions will be the difference between what governments THINK social media is all about and the reality about how quickly the media landscape has changed. You’ll get to read about it first, on a social media platform… probably on the screen you’re watching this news story right now.

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Never miss out on future posts by following The Thaiger.

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Turbulence ahead for Thailand’s aviation industry | VIDEO

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When the airlines, in particular, were asking the government to put their hands in their pockets for some relief funding in August last year, it was genuinely thought that international tourists would be coming back for the high season in December and January. At the very least local tourists and expats would head back to the skies over the traditional holiday break. And surely the Chinese would be back for Chinese New Year?

As we know now, none of that happened. A resurge in cases started just south of Bangkok on December 20 last year, just before Christmas, kicking off another round of restrictions, pretty much killing off any possibility of a high season ‘bump’ for the tourist industry. Airlines slashed flights from their schedule, and hotels, which had dusted off their reception desks for the surge of tourists, shut their doors again.

Domestically, the hotel business saw 6 million room nights in the government’s latest stimulus campaign fully redeemed. But the air ticket quota of 2 million seats still has over 1.3 million seats unused. Local tourists mostly skipped flights and opted for destinations within driving distance of their homes.

As for international tourism… well that still seems months or years away, even now.

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