(First in a multi-part series of dispatches on the Thai tourism industry 25 years after Visit Thailand Year)
BANGKOK: 25 years after the historic 1987 Visit Thailand Year, a number of industry veterans are voicing concern about the state of the industry and its future directions. With the number of arrivals skyrocketing, and future growth almost guaranteed for a host of reasons, there is apprehension about the growing gap between quality and quantity. A substantial consensus is emerging for the industry to start adopting the sufficiency economy philosophy of King Bhumibhol Adulyadej as a future development strategy.
One industry veteran speaking out is former Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Dharmnoon Prachuabmoh, who was one of the key planners of 1987 Visit Thailand Year, played a major role in another industry landmark, the 1992 Visit ASEAN Year (VAY) and also spent years on the PATA board of directors, including a stint as chairman. He feels that the Ministry of Tourism and Sports has not lived up to expectations, the country's huge popular island resorts are in need of carrying capacity controls and there is a long overdue requirement for quality human resources development institutions. He also feels the visa-regimes need to be revisited to better balance security concerns and tourism earnings.
His views are supported by other industry veterans such as Mr. Prapansak Bhatayanond, former General Manager of the Erawan hotel before it became the Grand Hyatt, Mr. Opas Netra-umpai, a former senior executive of the TAT and Mrs Bilaibhan Sampatsiri, owner and managing director of the Swissotel Nailert Park and chairman of the Siam Society, one of Thailand's foremost heritage and cultural organisations. Mrs Bilaibhan especially is concerned about whether one of the bedrocks of Thai tourism, its deep-rooted culture, is being gradually eroded both by tourism as well as all the surrounding winds of change sweeping through Thailand.