Country report: Thailand

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Expect to see a ‘big movement’ in Thailand’s cruise industry over the coming years, as the country invests heavily in port development and promotion.
In an interview with ASEAN Cruise News, Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Deputy Governor for Tourism Products and Business, Vilaiwan Twichasri said while Thailand is enjoying an increase in cruise visits, the overall plan is to build the sector and entice lines to deploy ships on a more permanent basis.
“Thailand is not looking forward to seeing the growing number of call-cruise ships, which call at our ports in season but we are looking forward to seeing the growing number of deployed-cruise ships in our region permanently, which makes us confident that Cruise Tourism in our region could grow sustainably,” she said.
Currently, Thailand welcomes around 75 cruise ships from 26 cruise lines.
Of those, only a few are permanently based in Asia such as the Star Cruises vessels.
Costa Cruises, Silversea Cruises and Seabourn Cruises make regular visits throughout the year, while Holland America and Royal Caribbean are slowly increasing their deployments.
However, Mrs Twichasri said in order to build on this growth, the region and particularly Thailand needs to invest in major ports.
“Every potential country deeply wishes to have a modern and functional cruise terminal as a home port to welcome more cruise ships and cruise travellers to visit,” she explained.
“A cruise terminal is a matter that every single country needs to consider to invest in and of course, a major port would not be built in a single night.”
That’s why she said local authorities recently approved a multi-million dollar extension of Phuket Port.
Once renovations are complete, the terminal will be 60-metres longer and able to accommodate two cruise ships alongside each other at the same time.
It will also be equipped to handle bigger cruise ships, which will come in handy if Royal Caribbean decides to send its Oasis-class vessels to the region.
“Thailand’s ports have served cruise tourism for years,” she said.
“As the size of the cruise ships tend to be larger in scale; therefore, ports with better facilities are strongly required to make sure the cruise ships call at a port safely and conveniently.
“As soon as the cruise terminal in Thailand has been completed, you will surely see a big movement in our cruise industry.”
Mrs Twichasri also revealed that Thailand’s authorities are looking into building another cruise terminal in popular tourist destination Bangkok or the Chon Buri province.
She believes the second port would help Thailand ‘catch the growth of the cruise industry in Asia’.
“In order to grab the opportunity as an ideal port for cruise tourism, Thailand, therefore, should urgently implement strategies to develop all elements (e.g., tourism products, service, formality, port, safety, hygiene, etc.) to serve the cruise tourism that grows significantly,” she said.
“Otherwise, cruise lines might find other ports to replace ours.”
However, Mrs Twichasri said she’d like to see more cruise lines use existing ports such us the one at Ranong.
Ranong Port is located in Southern Thailand and according to the tourism leader, would be ideal for itineraries travelling from Phuket Port to Dawei Port in Myanmar.
“This cruise route would become more well-known and attract more cruise travellers to visit in the near future,” she said.
However, building new ports doesn’t necessarily mean cruise lines will come.
Mrs Twichasri believes new infrastructure plus promotion alongside other ASEAN destinations is key to building a more permanent cruise based in ASEAN.
“Cruise is one of the tourism segments, which needs good cooperation internationally not just only to develop a port’s infrastructure but also marketing and promotional activities are needed to join hands among the ASEAN countries to boost more cruise ships to be deployed in our region.”
She revealed that the Thailand government is putting more attention into promoting cruise tourism.
The Ministry of Tourism and Sports together with the Ministry of Transport are joining hands to establish a plan to boost the country’s cruise sector.
And if you ask Mrs Twichasri why cruise lines should choose Thailand and the ASEAN region for cruising, she has plenty of reasons:
“Many cruise experts forecast that ASEAN is the rising star destination in the cruise industry with its own character in beaches, local culture, people and local hospitality,” she said.