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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Travel businesses urge coalition to act

Tourism operators called on the new coalition government to address lingering problems that have harmed the sector relative to regional neighbours.

Chanin Donavanik, the president of the Thai Hotels Association, said tourism operators hoped that the new tourism minister would be experienced in the industry, and would be able to address existing problems properly.

"We're pinning hopes on the new government after having had a lot of problems in the past 15-16 months with the interim government. That's why we don't want to waste time anymore," he said.

The new government should promote long-term, sustainable growth for the entire industry. Big-spending projects such as the Night Safari and Royal Flora Ratchaphruek in Chiang Mai should have continuing activities to draw more tourists.

They also urged the government to adequately fund the Tourism Authority of Thailand to promote the country both locally and in markets abroad.

Prakit Chinamourpong, the THA's vice-president, said the government should also improve security at Suvarnabhumi airport. "Safety is a very sensitive issue for tourists. The report that a break-in by a Burmese stowaway in Suvarnabhumi Airport ... was a question of safety standards for Thailand," he said.

Tourism leaders also pressed the government to address continuing problems at Suvarnabhumi and called for a second runway to ease overcrowding.

Mr Chanin noted that hotels and tourism-related operators would face challenges this year due mainly to the impact of the US sub-prime mortgage crisis and rising oil prices.

The global and Thai economies would be affected by a US recession. This would hurt the tourism sector and cause tourists to suspend their travel plans.

"We have to work harder and the pricing strategy will work to attract tourists in some cases. Competition will get tougher as more five-star hotels will be opened with an additional 15,000 rooms this year," he said.

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