Wake-up call for tourism industry

BUSINESS: Thai hoteliers have been warned that they risk losing control of the country’s hospitality industry to foreign investors if they do not improve their standards before the ASEAN Economic Community comes into being four years from now.

Saturday 3 September 2011, 09:00AM

Speaking at a seminar entitled Trends for Thailand Tourism ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in Bangkok on August 26, the Policy and Planning president of the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT), Kongkrit Hiranyakit urged hoteliers and hospitality employees to improve skills and performance, or face losing out on top positions around the region.

He pointed out, “The shareholder percentage for foreign investment is set to increase from 49 to 70 per cent across the region’s travel and hospitality industry.”

The TTR Weekly website said that Mr Kongkrit proposed a five-point plan to strengthen the country’s competitiveness, the five points being: improving quality and standards of products; establishing better investment data and information; relating more man-made destinations and products; creating alliances with related associations throughout ASEAN; and building contacts with government agencies to tap resources and support.

The TCT academic board president, Paradej Payakawichean, agreed with Mr Kongrit’s warning. “The problem for Thai hotel staff is that they are not gaining experience at the top level, as most top posts are still held by expatriates, which will make it more difficult for locals to apply for top hotel posts in other ASEAN countries once the community rules come into play in 2015.”

“Although the AEC is expected to boost Thailand’s tourist industry by allowing more foreign companies to invest in travel in Thailand, that alone will mean company owners will have invest more in skilled labour and be prepared for more competition,” Mr Kongkrit said.

The Bangkok AEC seminar warnings echoed concerns voiced by tourism industry experts at a recent Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) conference held at the Ibis Hotel in Phuket on August 26. (See local news pages, this issue.)

Participants in the Phuket CSR conference, organised by staff of the National Economic and Social Advisory Council (NESAC), raised a number of long-standing issues facing the island’s tourist industry, especially damage to Phuket’s reputation due to the actions of “local influential groups”.



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