CHIANG RAI -Â Lerdchai Wangtrakoondee, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s office in Chiang Rai, said last week that tourism in the northern most province of Chiang Rai and other provinces would increase.
Businesses in the upper North are teaming up to cash in on the booming border tourism business as visitors from China and Laos are expected to surge at the Chiang Khong checkpoint.
More Chinese and Laotians will be crossing into the Kingdom at the friendship bridge located nearly 10 kilometres from Chiang Khong town.
The bridge would help develop a logistics system linking together three countries – Thailand, Laos and China – in the long term.
Chiang Khong is one of three special economic zones being promoted in Chiang Rai.
“We have seen more cars, trucks and recreational vehicles from China coming to Thailand.
“Private car and RV numbers passing Chiang Khong bridge increased from 1,400 in 2013 to 4,000 in 2014 and 9,000 in 2015,” he said.
However, tourism in Chiang Khong district is going downhill since the bridge opened as travellers now just go straight to other provinces like Chiang Mai.
The opening of the bridge has led to the original river-crossing checkpoint closing down. That is a major cause of the decline in tourism in the area.
To reclaim visitors from both local areas and third countries, TAT and the private sector are planning to organise many events and activities, such as parking lots for RVs coming from China.
The authority is talking with stores to provide parking space for overnight stays.
Thunwa Liamphan, owner of the Day Waterfront Hotel in Chiang Khong, said about 40 hotels and travel operators in the district would open a 400-500-metre-long cultural road at the old town of Chiang Khong twice a month.
Besides morning alms and merit-making in the morning, the group is also planning a cycling route along with cruises. A new circle route through Thailand, southern China and Laos is also in the pipeline.
“More importantly, we want authorities to reopen the river checkpoint at Chiang Khong town, which was closed since the new bridge opened.
“If this checkpoint is reopened, tourism will be reborn, as local tourists and those from third nations will cross the Mekong River to Huay Xia in Laos,” he said.
Chiang Khong is home to 610 hotels and resorts with 17,000 rooms.
Nongkhran Onkhamlueang, manager of the Chiang Khong Teak Garden Hotel, said hotels need more customers to fill their rooms. Many hotels have already shifted their focus to Chinese tourists. The hotel opened its new wing three months ago, increasing rooms to 140. Foreign customers are 40 per cent of all guests.
More hotels and service businesses would open soon including the Fortune Riverview and Kasemrad Hospital, she said.
According to TAT’s data, 3 million tourists travelled into Chiang Rai last year, up from 2.9 million in 2014. About 60 per cent of visitors were local and 40 per cent were foreigners mostly from China, France, the US, Malaysia and Japan.
Average spending in 2015 was Bt2,980 per head per day. Airlines operate 48 flights per week including one international flight by South Eastern China.
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