Economists have reported a positive outlook for Thailand's tourism sector, stating that the industry will play a key part in supporting the country's economy during a time of global economic uncertainty.
Travel studies and top ten lists continue to confirm Thailand's position as one the best value destinations in Southeast Asia, and to boost its prospects further, the government is better aligning itself with neighbouring nations in a bid to become the region's primary travel hub ahead of ASEAN Economic Integration in 2015.Â
Figures recently released by the Tourism Authority of Thailand predict that the Land of Smiles will welcome 24.5 million tourists to its shores this year and according to some economic analysts, the government's target THB2.2 trillion (US$68.2 billion) in tourism revenue by 2015 is achievable.Â
Some experts, however, including Associate Professor Samjai Phagaphasvivat, a former senator and vice rector of Bangkok's famous Thammasat University believes Thailand should seek out new markets for tourism, such as Latin American and the African nations. Talking to eTurboNews, he pointed to Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Peru and Colombia as key emerging Latin American markets.Â
Professor Samjai also recommended that ASEAN launches a single visa for tourists travelling within the region.Â
Tourism authorities from Vietnam have already agreed to work with their Thai and Cambodian counterparts in order to introduce a single visa for tourists visiting the three countries. In addition, ministers from Myanmar, Indonesia and the Philippines recently expressed firm intentions to introduce a new visa system to facilitate easier travel in the region.Â
A new SMART visa would maximise the use of modern technology to reduce the inefficiency of current visa application processes and travel agencies across the region have also pledged their support for a single ASEAN visa.Â
According to Thanavath Phonvichai, director of the Centre for Economic and Business Forecasting at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, growth in Thailand's tourism sector is now driven by visitors from Asia, particularly ASEAN countries, Japan and South Korea.