Thailand is doing well to focus on “quality tourism”, according to Deepak Ohri, chief executive of luxury-hospitality company Lebua Hotels and Resorts.
He told The Nation that quality tourism revolves around culture and conservation that runs in parallel with improved infrastructure like more airports, railways and shopping places outside Bangkok.
While acknowledging Thailand’s strong cultural heritage, Mr Ohri believes that a broader range of cultural attractions, dining outlets and shopping centres would be useful in bringing in more visitors, ultimately improving their quality. But he warns that the balance should not be swung too far in favour of tourism.
“When you come to a country and you respect the culture of that country, that’s quality tourism. Once people learn the word ‘respect’, automatically people spend money. Quality tourism is not about filtering out some tourists, rather about changing the concept of visitors. When you upgrade yourself, automatically consumers get upgraded.
“There’s no harm in getting backpackers as long as they respect the culture. Quality tourism is not about how much people spend, but about how visitors take away certain values from the country. For so many years, it’s Thailand, not India, that has taken more values from Gautama Buddha,” he said.
Mr Ohri envisages peaceful co-existence between tourism development and cultural heritage, which can be achieved through cooperation between the tourism and arts-conservation authorities.
“Tourism is a fine mix. The tourism industry, the arts and the conservation authorities should work together. We should not lose our culture and heritage in trying to develop our tourism.
“We can do 80 million tourists. We want them to come, and also from here they can go to other places like the CLMV countries [Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam]. So Thailand is not greedy, but ready to distribute [its tourists] to other places.”