“Tourism in Thailand has a great future. The hospitality industry has recovered completely from a chain of natural disasters and political disruptions and is now preparing for the advent of the ASEAN Economic Community,” says Andrew J Wood, National President of Skål International Thailand.
Andrew J Wood was speaking at a Skål meeting in the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Hua Hin. He also aired his concern that the huge numbers of visitors demand an improvement of the infrastructure. “Electric, fast trains, even possibly bullet trains as well as quality highways linking our regional partner countries are needed to accommodate the growth in the tourist industry,” the Skål President continues. “AEC 2015 offers tremendous challenges for tourism in Thailand. Thailand must be cognizant, however, of its neighbors. They are aggressive and very competent. If Thailand fails to improve its infrastructure and to prepare for an open inter-connected free market in time, it will miss the opportunities created by AEC 2015.
Andrew J Wood speaks at the Skål meeting in the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Hua Hin.
“AEC 2015 allows free movement of people and goods in its territory. Tourism always has operations that cross national borders. AEC 2015 will be very beneficial in smoothing the work of amongst others, tour operators, airlines and hotel chains. AEC 2015 offers plenty of opportunities including the free movement of the workforce, but Thailand needs to be ready to maximize the business opportunities created by the advent of the ASEAN Economic Community.
“It is more than 25 years since Thailand launched the ‘Visit Thailand Year’, which marked the decision to develop the tourist industry. In 1986, 400,000 visitors came to Thailand, a number that tripled after the launch of the ‘Visit Thailand Year’. We now need to take the AEC blueprint and integrate this into a national tourism plan for Thailand, with a focus on sustainability.”
Andrew J Wood is convinced that 2013 will be a bumper year for Thailand, with 24 million visitors surpassing the 22 million visitors in 2012. He refers to the growing numbers of visitors from Thailand’s largest source markets, like China, India and Russia and he sees a significant increase of visitors from the 9 ASEAN member states.
Skål facilitates the hospitality industry by offering networking opportunities and regular meetings and congresses.
“Social media is now the key buzzword, but nothing builds better relationships than old fashioned face-to-face meetings with your peers. At Skål, networking is why we exist and thus we are even more relevant today than ever before,” says Wood.
Skål also initiates dialogue amongst its members and government agencies and through its leadership promotes sustainability in the tourism industry. Its members comprise among others professionals from travel agents, NTO’s, hotels, tour operators, golf courses, restaurants, spas, MICE and eCommerce companies. With 18,000 members worldwide and 450 clubs in 85 countries Skål is the largest organization of its kind. Established in 1932, the organization promotes the ethic of doing business among friends. Peace, friendship and sustainable, environment friendly developments in the tourism industry are keywords for Skål. Thailand has six Skål clubs; Bangkok, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, Koh Samui and Phuket.