Posted Date: Saturday, 18-Aug-2012
The prime minister has been used as a presenter in advertisements welcoming foreign travellers, while the latest projection pegs annual industry revenue at 2 trillion baht by 2015.
But in the views of operators, that figure is rather inconceivable considering this year's projection is only 1.2 trillion baht.
In the best case, they perceive that revenue gains could be 1.8 trillion baht from an estimated 26 million domestic and foreign tourists, far short of the 2 trillion from 30 million travellers set by the government.
It will be hard to achieve the target if there are no concrete plans or a sufficient budget.
The Tourism and Sports Ministry has actually mapped out a five-year development plan from 2012-16 for Thailand's tourism industry.
Strategies have been initiated to bring in more revenue with the ultimate goal of pushing up earnings to expand at least 5% annually.
Tourism is a major source of revenue, contributing about 6% of gross domestic product, and the importance of the sector raises doubts about whether Tourism and Sports Minister Chumpol Silpa-archa can make this possible.
Kongkrit Hiranyakit, the Tourism Council of Thailand's president for policy and planning, said he agrees with the goal of increasing revenue and supported projects to facilitate travelling such as by expanding airport capacity and moving low-cost airlines to Don Mueang airport.
But unfortunately, those who run the industry including the ministry work inefficiently, leading the tourism sector to fall short of its targets, he said.
Mr Kongkrit said Thailand's tourism remains healthy thanks to the private sector's ability to weather crises such as the recent political unrest.
"The number of tourist arrivals reached a record high of 15.3 million in 2010 despite the political tensions," he said.
In his view, the government has simply set an aggressive target without formulating a concrete plan.
Mr Kongkrit said some policies aimed at boosting the industry do not need a huge investment such as waving visa fees for tourists from China, a potentially lucrative market.
"But we still see little move on the initiative," he said.
Yutthachai Soonthronrattanavate, president of the Association of Domestic Travel, said the government has implemented initiatives such as raising the daily minimum wage and launching the first-time car buyer scheme.
Unfortunately, no scheme designed to boost the tourism industry has been forthcoming.
The government has pinned its hopes on two state agencies - the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and the Thailand Convention Exhibition Bureau - to promote tourism and tourism products.
The TAT, a core agency, received 5 billion baht to proceed with its plans, although that was half of what was originally budgeted.
Mr Yutthachai called for effective use of the budget and greater competency of those involved, especially Mr Chumpol, whom he considers lacking a long-term vision and relevant marketing skills.
If the situation continues, Thailand may miss its goal of being Asean's tourism hub and lose to rivals like Myanmar, which has many untapped attractions.