Thailand always sees itself as the tourism leader in Southeast Asia, with the industry’s highest incomes in the region as well as a growing numbers of visitors, it may reach 24 million this year. Despite the good news, the bad news is the country’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI) has gradually dropped, according to the latest report from the World Economic Forum. Thailand has many good and not so good points, the later are being cited as the cause of the falling rating.
They include Thailand’s poor infrastructure, slow bureaucratic processing of government rules and regulations, and low concerns for environmental issues. For example, Thailand was ranked 99th for environmental sustainability, falling from 97th in the report 2 years ago. The score was low because environmental regulations lack stringency and enforcement, and Thailand was judged to be poor at taking care of threatened species. Thailand was also marked down for information and communication technology infrastructure (90th). Its mobile phone coverage may score a high mark, but as we all know, Thailand is still crawling toward 3G technology while other countries are already eyeing 4G.
Another minus factor is safety and security (87th) which is directly linked to the reliability of police services and the number of road traffic accidents. The latter ranked Thailand lower than Vietnam (83rd and 70th, respectively).
Finally, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and the Economic and Business Forecasting Centre (EBFC) at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, has found that tourists’ safety is the priority issue that needs to be addressed. The problem is also raised as one of the top 3 concerns which are obstructing the country from climbing to the top Asean destination. The other two issues of concern are political unrest and damage to natural resources.
According to EBFC Director Thanavath Phonvichai, it was not a surprise to learn about the weak points hampering Thailand’s travel and tourism competitiveness.
“I believe that after we have a 3G network [in April] and digital TV [this year], the country’s ranking will be better,” he said. Another factor which he believed could have a good impact on the country’s development is the government’s 2 trillion baht infrastructure investment plan, which includes 10 electric train routes, high-speed trains, and dual-track train services.
“I believe within the next 3 to 5 years, the country’s competitiveness index will surely improve and the tourism industry will continue to drive economic growth by 5-7%,” he said.
The author, Andrew J. Wood, is Director of Worldwide Destinations Asia Co. Ltd.