Thailand contends for sports tourism heavyweight title


Thai minister of tourism and sports Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul making a speech during Thailand Travel Mart Plus 2016

SPORTS tourism is thrust into the limelight at Thailand Travel Mart Plus (TTM+) 2016, with Thai minister of tourism and sports Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul proposing a marketing budget of 100 million baht (US$2.8 million) from the cabinet to grow the burgeoning sector.

“Thailand is entering the sports tourism era,” declared Kobkarn during her sports tourism presentation at TTM+, as she sees great potential in leveraging the country’s existing sporting infrastructure and events to make the kingdom the “dream sports destination” for international sports visitors.

Efforts in this arena include the implementation of 648km of bike lanes across the country and the introduction of Tour de Andaman, a three-day cycling event taking place in Krabi, Phang Nga and Phuket, to the Thai sporting calendar this year.

And despite the lack of an iconic sporting event like Singapore F1, Kobkarn believes major events like Thailand Golf Championship and FIVB Volleyball Grand Prix and rising sports champions the likes of Ratchanok Intanon (badminton) and Ariya Jutanugarn (golf) will aid the kingdom’s image as a sports destination on the world stage.

As well, the increasing popularity of marathons, triathlons and cycling events that is developing in tandem with the rising wave of health consciousness will further stoke interest in Thailand as a sports tourism destination, she added.

Seeing potential in Thailand’s sporting tourism market is Lars Vinterberg, partner and product manager from Denmark’s Live Travel, who opines that cycling most appeals to his clients as the Danish hail from a country steeped in the bike culture. “We are already working a lot with SpiceRoads for cycling trips in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.”

However, for cycling tourism to properly take off in Thailand, Vinterberg urges the Thai authorities to improve road safety levels in the country.

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