THAI TOURISM IN DANGER DUE TO THAI ATTITUDES OF FOREIGNERS – Thailand is currently suffering from a downturn in exports. This is attributed to many global factors of demand and of course the strength of the Bath; which the Government appears unwilling to tackle.
What could save the economy is Thailand’s tourist industry; however over the last few years this also has experience a downturn.
Thailand currently has a number of tourism related issues that many feel are critical to address if Thailand is to be able to compete against other neighbouring countries that are embracing tourism for all it is worth, such a Malaysia and Singapore.
So what are the problems that Thailand must deal with in order to compete? There are the usual concerns such a safety and the rising level of violent crime. Whilst Thailand has a population of just 1/6th that of the United States it’s gun related crime is six times higher.
On top of that we have the continuous reports of foreign tourists being mugged, scammed and raped; all of which are taking their toll on the number of foreign tourists visiting Thailand.
Put aside the most prevalent news of the issues above and look a little deeper and it becomes apparent that Thailand lacks friendly staff, services are generally sub-standard and communication difficult due to the lack of tourist related employees being able to speak English; even at a rudimentary level.
For a tourism industry to flourish a number of key ingredients are needed; safety, friendliness, competency and above all the ability to communicate.
If Thailand wants to compete with other Asean members then it must adopt a far better standard of education; so that Thais may communicate in a friendly, helpful and effective manner with their foreign guests.
Of course, for this to occur, the Thai authorities and Thai people must change their attitudes towards foreign nationals. Foreign tourists should never be viewed upon as simply being cash-cows but rather as valued guests that allow Thais to learn about other cultures. Tourism, when handled by an effective Government, produces benefits not only for its country in economical terms but also in the education of it people as it promotes a wider understanding.
A recent study by the Centre for International Trade Studies, at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce clearly shows that the Thai economy could sustain itself through tourism even during a downturn in exports if the tourism critical issues were addressed.
The question now is; ‘are the Thais able to learn these skills?’ That in itself is obvious in that anyone, regardless of nationality, is able to learn new skills if there is sufficient desire and therefore the question has to be presented; ‘are Thais willing to learn the skills required for a successful tourist industry?’
The answer to that lays in both the Government and the people. The Thai Government must address the issues of its education system and notably the corruption within the country. With a stable education system Thai citizens can then adequately learn to communicate and above all appreciate different cultures so that their attitudes change from the narcissistic and nationalistic stance that Thais are the superior race and that all other nationalities are little more than second class citizens.
Thailand is now due to joining the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2016; after postponing its entry in 2015. If Thailand is unable to quickly address these critical areas then not only could it see a continued downturn in import/export trade but it could also result in its tourist industry fading to its neighbouring competitors and as such will almost certainly have a devastating impact on the Thai economy.
The time for rhetoric and useless populist polices, such as the ‘Rice Pledging Scheme’ has to be put aside and the Government must, at all costs, concentrate on providing an education system for its citizens that will allow them to effectively compete with other AEC members.
There are some quarters who feel that come 2016 the Thai Government will once again postpone entry into AEC due to being unable to tackle the core and fundamental issues Thailand has and yet the longer such measures are delay the more damage is likely to impact the Thai economy as it becomes almost segregated from the rest of South East Asia.
According to Government figures Thailand is expected to attract nearly 35 million foreign visitors a year by 2020. The tourist industry could generate, according to Government figures, up to 2 trillion Thai Baht annually; accounting for over 11% of Thailand’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Currently Malaysia is ahead of the tourism numbers with approximately 25 million visitors a year compared to Thailand’s reported 22 million. Of course neighbouring countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos are also concentrating on the tourist trade and as Myanmar steps into the scene the number of foreign tourists available is being spread even thinner.
There is no doubt that Thailand is at a crossroads and it has a clear choice but whether those ruling the country will sacrifice their power and wealth through their continued control is another matter but will ultimately seal the fate of Thailand as a nation and tourist destination.