CHIANG RAI – Northern Thailand Tourism Operators are set to publicise a new heritage route in the north to global markets, aiming to boost niche and adventure tourism in the area.
The new route follows the culture and traditional ways of life of one of the ethnic groups in the Kingdom, the Tai Lue, who have lived in the provinces of Chiang Rai, Phrae and Phayao for hundreds of years.
Prakobsiri Pakdeepinit, a tourism researcher at the University of Phayao, said the unique commu-nities in those three provinces could be promoted as heritage attractions to international tourists, particularly from developed countries such as Australia and those in North America and Europe, as well as China and other Asian nations.
She said the provinces could also easily link by land with many attractions in Chiang Tung (Kentung) in Myanmar and Sainyabuli in Laos. As the provinces are in a strategic location, at least three routes in the area could be designed, linking the three nations.
There are many repeat tourists to these provinces, but there should be some new attractions to maintain the number of visits, Prakobsiri said.
Each of the packages would cost Bt3,000-Bt3,500 per person per trip, excluding air fares from Bangkok.
A recent study on community-based tourism suggested that Phayao province should promote the country’s first floating khan tok dinner, a Northern-style cuisine, along with a new border crossing with Laos. In the meantime, Chiang Kham district in Phayao could be developed as a new historic and heritage site.
“The rich culture and typical ways of living of the Tai Lue and its communities can serve visitors all year around. Foreign tourists are likely our priority targets,” Prakobsiri said.
In 2013, 1.5 million tourists visited Chiang Rai, Nan received 500,000 visitors, and Phayao received about 400,000.
“Local tour operators are urged to take advantage of new attractions in the upper northern region in a bid to generate income for local people and also lead to sustainable growth in the long term,” said Sumitra Mutturanont, president of the Thai Eco Tourism and Adventure Travel Association.
She said most attractions could appeal to retirees or senior tourists who are interested in culture and history.
She said the Tai Lue communities had long been established in the region and could be developed into new attractions, especially for tourists interested in the traditional lifestyles of local people.
Chantravipha Dhanasobhon, industry division director at the Thailand Research Fund (TRF), said the unit had been funding research and studies on tourism development as well as local training in many communities, including in Phuket and Chiang Mai.
Some communities have already been promoted at ITB Berlin and other travel fairs.
“TRF this year and next will focus more study on local unique characteristics nationwide in order to provide information and material for the private sector to initiate marketing,” she said.
The current military-led government is pushing “Thainess” and local activities to draw international tourists.
By SUCHAT SRITAMA