“Thailand is entering the sports tourism era”

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Thai minister of tourism and sports Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul made some clear-cut statements about the future for tourism in Thailand when speaking at the Thailand Travel Mart Plus 2016 in Chiang Mai, June 9, 2016.

“Thailand is entering the sports tourism era,” and should be the “dream sports destination” for international sports visitors in the future, she said at the event, that was first organized in 2001 with the objective to promote the tourism and service business in Thailand and its Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) counterparts.

Moreover the minister proposed a marketing budget of 100 million baht (US$2.8 million) from the cabinet to grow the burgeoning sector.

Sports tourism is a fast-growing sector of the global travel industry and equated to $7.68 billion in 2012. There are no clear classification of the sports tourism, but it’s often two-pieced into observing big sports events; Tour de France or the ongoing Euros 2016 or being active yourself; hiking, canoeing or bicycling, which might be most relevant in the case of Thailand for the time.

Kobkarn however said she believed 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.

Demand is increasing

Danish travel agency in Thailand, Live Travel, recognizes the potential outlined by the minister.

“I see a great potential in this type of travel and I’m positive that more Danes will expand their holiday in Thailand to also including bicycling,” Lars Vinterberg partner at Live Travel says.

Lars Vinterberg and Live Travel have specialized in travels combining exercise, mostly cycling, and more chilled leisure.

His company has experienced a 20-30 percent increase on the demand of these types of holidays in one year, he claims.

“More Danes are interested in doing their hobby at their vacation and more important, they want unique experiences. Bicycling tourism is that kind of vacation. You get exercise, unique experiences and you get to come close to the population.” Lars Vinterberg explains.

Cycling is a form of exercise that is growing rapidly also among local Thais in these years. Cycling clubs are opening both on exercise and the competitive level. The Thai government launched a huge “Bike for Dad”-campaign in December 2015 to urge the Thais to put on a helmet and get on the bike, as safety for cyclists also has seen improvements.

So Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul quotes are part of a zeitgeist in Thailand. Lars Vinterberg teamed up with a local partner called SpiceRoads and they have for years now been working with 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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