EEC aims to rake in Bt508 bn from tourists


Plans have been drawn up for the provinces in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) to welcome more than 46 million tourists who are expected to generate Bt508 billion in income by 2021.

The tourism development initiative for the EEC will be backed by Bt31 billion in investment. Kalin Sarasin, chairman of both the Board of Trade of Thailand and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), said that EEC tourism development has been provided for in four plans. The first of these would promote new tourism trends and new attractions, such as Laem Bali Hai and the Pattaya on Pier and Cruise Terminal project for large cruises operations, as well as conservation attractions in Chachoengsao.

“The Pattaya on Pier and Cruise Terminal is a mega-project, which should be developed in a public-private partnership (PPP) scheme,” he said. “Its master plan will be completed this year. Then, priorities will be set and the TOR (terms of reference) will be launched for private enterprises to participate in investment next year.”

Kalin urged the government to define special promotional zones for mega-tourism related projects.  

A number of big foreign and local investors have come in for discussion on this matter, he said.

A second plan involves the development of infrastructure and facilities, while encouraging tourists to visit second-tier cities to better manage tourism expansion. The related projects are the development of mobile applications, solid waste management, waste water management, promotion of cruise routes’ expansion and road building. The other two projects cover tourism-related human resources development to boost tourists’ confidence through efforts to build on the quality of services and safety in the designated EEC areas.

With these plans, the number of tourists to the EEC region is expected to increase from 29.89 million in 2017 to 46.72 million in 2021 and tourism-based income is forecast to rise from Bt280 billion to Bt508 billion.

An anonymous source from the EEC said that there would be 53 tourism-related projects with Bt31 billion investment, Tourism-related plans would differ from other plans, given the need for a high level of involvement with communities, the source said, adding that investment promotional packages for tourism investment and special promotional zones in the EEC would likely be offered as a means of attracting big investors.

“After this, the master plan and scope of area development will be accelerated. Then, special promotional zones and investment packages could be defined to meet the tourism industry,” the source said. “This is different from what would apply in the manufacturing sector.”

Adith Chairattananon, vice president of the Thailand Travel Agents Association, said that sports tourism should be added to the EEC’s tourism development agenda to help generate higher income for Thailand.  

Buriram province has made strides in sports tourism over the past five years, promoting the provincial capital as a sports city. These efforts have generated high income for the local area and Chon Buri province has been moving in this direction, too, he said.

“Statistically, sport tourists have spent more than other groups of tourists and Thailand is gaining popularity (in sport tourism) as seen from a number of marathon events in several provinces,” he said. However, the EEC may have to devote some attention to safety. Thailand has been ranked 135th among destinations for safety, after Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos, Adith said.

He suggested that clearly defined rules for safety and other regulations be drafted, including the flagging of dangerous zones for tourists, especially from China. More hospitals and medical centres should be established, especially those that can respond to the threat of any disease outbreaks, Adith said.