International tourists can be assured of their safety and security while staying in Thailand, Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said at this week's "World Travel Mart" in London. She also said the government was working hard to address some of the underlying challenges that had affected the industry over the years.
At the global travel show, which runs until today, she said the government was now giving top priority to security measures, especially for tourists, by implementing more surveillance cameras and lighting at tourist destinations across the country. More tourist police will also facilitate and ensure safety for tourists, while zoning laws will be improved to enhance sustainability at tourist destinations, the minister said on Monday.
In addition, major efforts are being made to ensure that all places have clean toilets and facilities for people with disabilities, who will make up a larger number of tourists in an increasingly ageing society. Kobkarn said illegal taxi operations at Phuket and Suvarnabhumi airports had been clamped down on, while there had also been a crackdown on illegal businesses at major destinations.
"Phuket has witnessed its popular beaches at Patong, Surin and Bang Tao being returned to their natural state after a clearing out of encroaching operators. Pattaya and Hua Hin have also cleared out illegal businesses along the beachside walks," she said. The ministry will continue to build up the country by facilitating travel in order to take advantage of the imminent opening of the ASEAN Economic Community, Kobkarn said.
"I'm honoured to take up this very critical position, as the government is placing the [tourism] sector as a primary source of foreign-exchange earnings and generating income in local communities," she told the trade mart.
Despite it being a challenging year, tourism is one of the most successful Thai sectors, with global arrivals exceeding 26.5 million in 2013, she added.