Held last Thursday (July 28) at the conference centre at the Royal Phuket Marina, the talks attracted a big crowd of association members, who were there also to attend the PTA annual general meeting later, tourism professionals and university students.
The four speakers agreed that the key to Phuket maintaining its competitiveness as a tourist attraction in the new ASEAN community largely rests on what it can do to develop the language and other skills of its workers and to provide infrastructure for a more broadly-based development.
One solution to keeping Phuket competitive, offered to the audience by Professor Dr Jira Hangladarom, from the Foundation for International Human Resource Development, was to build “added value” for Phuket, so that it could become a centre for creativity and skills, as well as being a desirable leisure destination.
He said Phuket could learn from the example of Pattaya, and avoid letting the demands of tourism spoil the place. He used the Thai word nao, meaning rotten, to describe the spoiling.
His answer was to add to the “capital” of Phuket, creative, knowledgeable, innovative, emotional and cultural components.
The island should aim to have clever local universities, networked with the best universities abroad, as well as centres for building human resources and sustainable economic and agricultural development, he said.
Dr Jira was one of four speakers on the stage discussing the potential of the island to remain a competitive destination in the ASEAN community as trade and immigration borders are lowered in 2015 under the AEC. Under the plan it will be easier for nationals of the 10 Asean countries to move between them and work in them.
The other three speakers were Somprasong Khommapat, Director-General of the Department of Tourism and Sports, Wichit Na Ranong, the “father” of Phuket tourism, and Associate Professor Nisa Chutchakul, Sub-Dean of the Phuket Rajabhat Univeristy.
Mr Somprasong said Phuket should aim to protect and enhance the main reasons why people come to Phuket: the beautiful environment and quality of life.
Like other three speakers who recommend good networking, he urged Phuket to form links with other cities, as it has by being sister city with Nice in France and Las Vegas in the US, for example.
But he said a cluster approach to promoting tourism, such as linking the attractions of Krabi, Phang Nga with Phuket, worked better. – Norachai Thavisin