The warning was fired at the Phuket Creative Tourism Forum held at Royal Phuket Marina. The forum was organized by the Phuket Tourism Association (PTA) in conjunction with Phuket Rajabhat University’s Faculty of Management Science.
Somprasong Khomapat, Inspector-General of the Ministry of Tourism & Sports, opened the event with a no-nonsense description of Phuket’s tourism playing field.
“Phuket is its own brand. People know where Phuket is without saying ‘in Thailand’. The challenge is how to preserve the good things that Phuket has, how to develop human potential to compete with other ASEAN tourist cities, and how to create Phuket tourism as sustainable industry,” Somprasong said.
“Potential staff is the most important part to make the difference and add value to our tourism products and services. Members may learn some answers from this seminar,” Mr Somprasong said.
PTA President Somboon Jirayus highlighted that the clock was ticking, with the ASEAN Free-Trade Agreement (AFTA) due to come into effect in 2015.
“Thailand will join AFTA in next four years, which means stronger competition among ASEAN members. So we cannot keep running our businesses using the same old strategy. We have to create new strategies to keep the old customers and attract new ones,” he said.
Mr Somboon explained that the PTA had set the goal of developing Phuket as “City of Creative Tourism”.
“To support that goal, we are holding this seminar to help our members exchange ideas and to listen to new comments from invited experts on creative issues,” he said.
The first session of the event was a stage discussion entitled “How to develop Phuket’s potential to be ready to join AFTA”.
“Phuket should focus on maintaining brand positioning and we should bring in more creative persons from throughout ASEAN to work with us, because everybody already wants to come here for vacation. We need to offer something different,” said Prof Chira Hongladarom, Secretary-General of the Foundation for International Human Resource Development.
“IT facilities and human capacity should also be a primary focus of development,” he added.
Mr Somprasong of the Ministry of Tourism & Sports suggested Phuket rekindle ties with sister city Nice, in France.
“It would be a good chance to add value to Phuket by bringing back this relationship. When people talk about Nice, people will associate Phuket with it,” he said.
Vichit Na Ranong, one of the pioneers of Phuket tourism and a former president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, expressed concern about preserving Phuket’s natural resources, which he said was still the key factor in attracting tourists.
“We are so proud of the income generated from tourism and the number of visitors we attract, and the worldwide recognition we have gained, but our success is not yet complete.
“Everyone is happy to reap the benefits from Phuket’s land, sea, sand and sun, which are considered our main ‘arteries’, but few people are concerned about preserving them,” he said.
“I worry that if our natural resources are destroyed, then there will be nothing left for us to compete with,” Mr Vichit added.
— Pimwara Choksakulpan
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