The tourism association representing 14 southern provinces in Thailand has urged the Transport Ministry to relax regulations, allowing Malaysian tour buses to travel beyond the border province of Songkhla. This move could potentially stimulate the region’s economy through promotional campaigns, as discussed at a recent forum on tourism organised by the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC).
Jarun Kaewjeesub, president of the Phatthalung Tourism Association, expressed the need for more Malaysian tourists in the southern border area. Bangkok Post reports that easing entrance rules for Malaysians visiting Songkhla and allowing them to travel deeper into other southern provinces would help distribute visitors more evenly across the region.
The forum participants also agreed to draft a request to the director-general of the Department of Land Transport, seeking permission for Malaysian visitors to visit all 14 southern provinces by tour bus. Additionally, they acknowledged that the restriction also affects tourists from Singapore and Indonesia.
Sitthiphong Sitthiphatprapha, Hatyai Songkhla Hotels Association president, estimated that at least two million tourists would visit Songkhla using land transport this year, a significant increase from 800,000 to 900,000 visitors last year.
In April, Songchai Mungprasithichai, president of the Songkhla Tourism Promotion Association, identified the Hat Yai district in Songkhla as the top destination for Malaysian tourists seeking food-related experiences. Most of these tourists enter through the Sadao immigration checkpoint and often choose Hat Yai as their regular weekend destination. Approximately 70% of these visitors are part of tour groups.
Songchai also mentioned that the average occupancy rate should reach 70-80% during Malaysia’s school holidays. However, the province has become overly reliant on Malaysian tourists, attracting less demand from local visitors due to high domestic travel costs.
To address this issue, Songchai suggested that the new government and local administrator should work together to tackle high airfares and create tourist attractions in the city.
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