0537 GMT July 19, 2019
Iran Daily conducted an exclusive interview with Pichaya Saisaengchan, the director of Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Dubai and the Middle East Office to know more about the historical possibilities and promotion of Iran-Thailand tourism cooperation, the number of tourists, and identify the tourism projects at hand.
He is in charge of the TAT Dubai and the Middle East Office since 2017. He has been working for TAT since 1993. From 2007 to 2009 he was in ASEAN, South Asia, and South Pacific division.
The full text of the interview follows:
IRAN DAILY: How do you evaluate Iran-Thailand tourism cooperation in both countries’ markets, what prospects do you see?
PICHAYA SAISAENGCHAN: Thailand and Iran have many tourism resources in common such as natural attractions, cultural sites and events. These important tourism resources can be developed for the benefit of tourism promotion. Since Thailand and Iran are considered “experienced” tourism destinations, the two countries can learn from each other through exchange programs among tourism-related personnel. What Iran can learn from Thailand may include tourism marketing and communication, while Thailand can learn a lot from Iran in terms of management, especially historical heritage management.
Apart from learning exchange programs, Thailand and Iran can benefit from joint marketing activities such as organizing of events like “tourism festivals” to promote Thailand as a tourism destination in Iran and vice versa. This joint tourism promotional event will bring a better understanding and stronger relationship and can also better promote the exchange of tourists between the two countries in the near future.
Due to Thailand’s recent improvements in tourism industry, do you think Iran is good market for them to invest in terms of building hotels and tourism?
The Thai tourism investors always look for the opportunity to expand their products and services into potential international markets. Iran is among the destinations that the Thai entrepreneurs have shown interest for investment, particularly in the tourism sector. This is due to the sizable domestic market as well as a vast variety of high- quality tourism products that Iran has to offer to international tourists. At present, Thai investors are keeping a close watch on Iran due to the US sanctions. These investors are keen to see the direction Iran is moving towards to handle the economic difficulty caused by sanctions. If the situation improved or remained stable, Thai investors would be interested in investments in Iran. We do hope that the situation will improve soon.
What is the most important factor that foreign travelers are most interested in?
Iran is rich in natural resources, and history. International tourists are interested in exploring Iran both in natural wonders and cultural heritage. As for the cultural aspect, Persian culture and its long history the important factors that interest and attract visitors. They include the unique and magnificent Persian architecture, skillful arts and crafts, and the well-known Iranian cuisine. Most of all, the friendliness of the Iranian people is considered the most important factor that makes tourists feel welcomed and even want to return.
Have you ever been to Iran? If yes, which city is your favorite tourism destination and why?
I have been to Iran many times. Unfortunately, Tehran is the only city I have visited.
There are many fantastic attractions in Tehran that I have been to and am really fond of such as museums and palaces. One of my favorite attractions in Tehran so far is the magnificent Tochal Mountain. What I like about Tochal is the fact that this mountain is often snow-capped and turns into a ski resort during winter. However, what impresses me the most is the friendliness of the local people whom I have come across in Tehran. It is the Iranian people who make Iran even more attractive in the eyes of visitors like me.
On my next trip, I have a plan to discover more of Iran. The destinations I have planned to visit include Isfahan for its splendid Persian architecture, the resort island of Kish, and the wonderful natural attractions at Qeshm Island.
Please tell us about Thailand’s tourism rank in the world?
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Thailand was ranked number 10 in the world’s most visited country destination in 2017 (35.4 million international tourists). In 2018, the tourist number for Thailand exceeded 38 million.
As for tourism income of the same year, Thailand was ranked No.4 at 57.5 billion USD. Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand, has been ranked the world’s most visited city during the last three consecutive years. The city was visited by 22 million tourists in 2018.
How do you outweigh tourism competitors?
While tourism is becoming more competitive within the region and on a global scale, Thailand still remains a popular destination due to a variety of quality attractions, natural and cultural alike. Besides, Thailand is known by visitors for being one of the most hospitable countries. Thanks to the local people who are friendly to the visitors, making them feel at home when they are on vacation. As many as 60 percent of tourists to Thailand are returning visitors. This proves that, in addition to the physical tourism attractions, people are the key to success for bringing tourists back to Thailand again and again.
What is your customer acquisition strategy to acquire international customers?
TAT is among the first National Tourism Board (NTB) in Asia that has been promoting Thailand as a tourism destination to international tourist markets since 1962. Currently, TAT has 29 offices worldwide that develop strong relationship and partnership with tourism stakeholders, for example, travel agents, tour operators, airlines, and media in each market to promote outstanding tourism products and services of the country. The tourism network which has been built over five decades is one of the keys to our tourism promotional success.
What’s the biggest challenge facing Thailand’s tourism industry? What are the strategies to cope with them?
Thailand is a popular destination for international visitors. However, tourists tend to stay in some destinations that are more popular rather than others such as Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, Chiangmai, and Samui. Our challenge is to make sure that visitors have an opportunity to explore the ‘less known, less visited’ destinations, which are as charming and beautiful as the already popular ones. The “hidden gem” destinations are located around the country. They include Krabi, Trang, Phang Nga in the Southern coast of Thailand, Rayong, Trat in the East Coast, Lampang and Lampoon in the North, and Hua Hin, Cha Am, and Ranong in the South, and many more.
The ultimate goal of TAT is to create an equal distribution of arrivals as well as tourism incomes to as many possible provinces throughout the country.