CHIANG RAI, 18 December 2018: This is the time of the year when we can indulge ourselves looking back at the year past and gazing into the crystal ball to see what awaits us in the year to come.
It’s a time when we can ponder over wish-lists, get sentimental at family reunions and even throw in a few New Year resolutions along with predictions of yet more success in 2019.
TAT’s governor Yuthasak Supasorn started early with the annual good tidings and local media were all ears ready for the annual fortune-telling session.
No one apparently batted an eyelid when the governor said there would be 1 million visitors during the two days of New Year, generating THB17.3 billion in revenue up 8%. This is the guy who vowed earlier in his TAT career to end the practice of quoting arrivals and revenue figures in favour of deeper insights that would reflect the quality, or lack of it, in Thailand’s tourism business.
He confidently claimed that of the 1 million countdown fans, 520,000 foreign tourists would join the celebrations, up 15%, while domestic travellers would make 2.7 million trips to destinations around the country that are offering countdown celebrations.
No wonder, newspaper readers often do what journalists should be doing by asking where did the governor find these figures, or were they plucked out of the sky at random?
Why do we take at face value predictions on tourism without asking for a point of reference?
My wish list for 2019 would begin with a request for better and more detailed quality statistics based on facts rather than hearsay. Tourism receipts account for around 12% of Thailand’s economy considered the second largest in Southeast Asia. It deserves better data collection and distribution.
Search as you may for the source of Yuthasak’s data and you will be more likely disappointed. It’s not that Thailand is incapable of attracting half a million foreign tourists over the two-day holiday, but rather the premise that figures can be floated without anyone questioning the source or reliability.
I spend considerable time searching the websites of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, the Department of Tourism and tourism sites operated by the private sector and without exception they are poorly managed, lack current and reliable information and present news and information in the Thai language that is out-dated often by a year or more.
For a ministry that has to deal with international tourism organisations and is the ‘face’ of a major industry that relies on international markets, the ministry’s website should be packed with facts, data and reliable news and statements in various international languages, not just Thai.
The blame for the lack of credible data and the subsequent flow of reliable information on tourism should be placed at the door of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports. It needs to do a much better job and it starts with officials visiting their own websites and asking whether it is acceptable to display outdated content and in some instances web pages and categories that remain blank.
Call them the forgotten websites of travel, neglected at the expense of feeble photo shoots and 20 words of glossy praise on Facebook and Twitter and nothing of substance to encourage tourism investment.