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Thailand’s still ‘favored tourist destination’

June 14, 2012

Foreign tour operators acknowledged that Thailand’s popularity is on the rise and that it still remains a favorite regional destination, but they say problems in the Kingdom remain widespread and stand to hurt tourist sentiment.

These problems include political uncertainty, cheating practices among service operators and illegal taxi drivers who not only charge higher fares but also behave badly with foreigners. Some operators are calling on the government to find solutions for this before the country loses its good image.

The tour operators from India, Russia and China were speaking at Thailand Travel Mart Plus 2012 held by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) last week. More than 473 tour agencies from 60 countries participated in the event.

Sameer Whig, director of New Delhi-based Samaara Travels, said the Kingdom remained popular as a holiday destination, with the number of Indians coming to Thailand rising annually thanks to a booming economy. Last year alone, his firm brought 4,000 people here.

Though the most popular destinations are Bangkok and Pattaya, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai and Phuket are also catching up. Most travelers from India come here for the nightlife, shopping and leisure activities, with travel packages costing at least 15,900 baht (US$500) for about six to seven nights on average.

Whig said his clients complained about having trouble with local service operators, especially from criminal gangs in Pattaya. For instance, he said, tourists rent jet skis from local operators but end up paying large amounts for damage that they have allegedly made to the equipment. He said these jet-ski operators worked hand-in-hand with the tourist police. He also complained about illegal taxi drivers harassing tourists at Suvarnabhumi International Airport.

Liu Feng, CEO of Yunnan Comfort Tourism Group, said his company’s biggest problem was that local operators did not provide services according to the agreements signed. He said the government should set service standards.

TAT has been working hard to standardize the tourism industry by classifying the quality of service provided by local operators, ranging from food to hotels. It is most likely that local operators might have downgraded their services, resulting in them breaking their agreements with the Chinese tour operators, a source said.

Last year, his company brought 100,000 Chinese tourists to Thailand and this number is expected to grow by 5 to 10 percent. The major destinations for Chinese tourists are Bangkok and Pattaya, with Phuket, Chiang Mai and Krabi fast catching up.

Kondratyuk Ksienia, manager of Primoravtotrans based in Moscow, said the biggest problem her clients faced was the lack of information in the Russian language, which prevented them from exploring new places in the country. She said most tourists from Russia booked two-week package tours to Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, and many visited the Kingdom to enjoy the beaches. (nvn)

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