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Plan for new tourist body

October 16, 2001

PM's Office Minister Somsak Thapsuthin is mulling a proposal to set up a joint venture between the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and local and foreign partners to promote Thailand as a long-stay destination for retired foreigners.

The long-stay tourist plan envisions affluent, retired foreigners staying in different parts of Thailand for at least two to three months.

The plan is part of a strategy to capture another important tourism market that could become an important source of foreign exchange in the medium term.

Somsak said the average stay of foreign tourists in Thailand had been on the decline, to about seven to eight days by each visitor this year.

But if the market for long-stay tourists was to be developed, he said, a bold plan involving cooperation between the public and private sectors was needed.

He said the TAT might hold anything from a 10 to 30 per cent stake in the planned joint venture, with the rest held by domestic and foreign strategic partners.

The role of the corporation would be to work on research and marketing to foster the development of the long-stay tourist market in Thailand.

"It will be difficult to develop this market segment without involvement from the public sector, since it will require long-term commitment and resources," Somsak said.

The minister is in the process of floating the idea to players in the tourist industry. If it is to be successful, the project would also need the endorsement from the Thaksin government.

"I'm faced with a dilemma," Somsak said. "We know this market is important and has huge potential. But we don't know whether we should let the private sector do it alone or give them support."

However, Somsak said a joint venture was likely to prove the best option.

The first objective of the long-stay tourist strategy is distributing tourist revenue to different parts of the country, rather than allowing it to concentrate too heavily in major cities such as Chiang Mai, Phuket and Pattaya.

Secondly, the corporation would try to bring together investors and demand, so that existing hotels and resorts in different provinces were fully utilised. Condos or other high-rises could also be adjusted to suit the needs of long-stay tourists.

Thirdly, new facilities could be built to meet the needs of long-stay tourists.

Somsak is set to submit plans for a one-stop service to promote long-stay tourism for Cabinet approval. It would handle all matters involving immigration procedures, labour, the tourist police, the Foreign Ministry, the TAT, hotline services and legal documentation.

Thanong Khanthong



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