Friday 15 August 2014

Tourism in Thailand: Lessons for India

India is the world’s seventh largest country in geographical size and second largest in population but as far the tourist inflow is concerned India ranks almost nowhere compared to Thailand. Though Thailand is a small country, it ranks among the top ten in terms of international tourist arrivals as per the World Tourism Organization rankings. Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is ranked the top destination city in the world for international tourist arrivals. So let me explore the reasons for this anomaly. This report is based mainly on my personal experience.


Thailand is a safe travel destination

I could see that women feel safe travelling alone in Thailand. One can see girls out late at night in Bangkok as well as in other towns. This I consider as one of the top tourist attraction points as several single female tourists (as well as locals) could be seen moving around all over Thailand. On this aspect India rates poorly what with media full of rape and molestation stories across India. It is unimaginable for a single woman to be on the Delhi streets late at night (even day time is not considered very safe). Woman travelling in public transport often have to suffer groping hands.

Visa on Arrival:

Visa on Arrival at the Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok

I believe that this is one great plus point for Thailand, whereas the same facility exists only for a handful of western countries in India. The Visa on Arrival process of Thailand is very smooth. All you need to do is fill a very small form with less than 10 entries. There are two lines - a normal one where you pay the fees of a thousand Baht (approx. Rs 2000) and an express line where the process is even faster (you pay a nominal 200 Baht extra). The visa is granted quickly. Compare this with India: even when the Indians arrive back to their home country the immigration officials look at all of them suspiciously, ask rude questions and are not even polite.


Thailand has excellent road network

I found that Thailand has excellent road network even 200 km away from its capital. And there are plenty of hotels of all categories. Now these two are the basic requirements to attract international tourist. On both counts, except for small pockets, India lags behind.


The view from my room at the Amari Hua Hin

Thailand is a value for money kind of destination. First the visa fee is not very high, then hotels, restaurants etc are comparatively much cheaper compared to India (and the Europeans and Americans find it even cheaper with their stronger currency). The glitzy Bangkok is also considered a shopper’s paradise as all stuff, be it clothes or electronics or other items, is inexpensive. 


Hua Hin Beach, Thailand

The beaches were very clean and the water not choppy. In India except some exclusive beaches, others are dirty with people staring at you if you are in beach wear. 

The smiles: Nowhere in Thailand did I encounter any rude behaviour or people trying to fleece me just because I am a tourist. Hawkers did not pester me to buy their product. Compared to this the moment a tourist lands at any Indian destination there are hordes of people who want to fleece you, stare at you, grope you.

The Street Food: In India the street food is normally not prepared very hygienically and offers few options. I was amazed to see the plethora of street food options in Thailand, hygienically prepared, consisting of all kinds of vegetarian, fruit as well as meat and sea products.


The Pavilion at the Phraya Nakhon Cave 

All across Thailand I saw that the cities as well as the countryside are equally clean. Their national monuments and places of tourist attraction are well maintained and are not vandalized by miscreants scribbling on the walls. For example the trek I did in the Phraya Nakhon Cave in the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park in Thailand had no waste thrown around on the trek and the Pavilion was also not spoilt. Compared to this I have seen innumerable vandalised Indian heritage sites like the Ranthambore Fort. When the tourists land in India they are greeted with garbage lying in the open (even in Delhi) with polythene bags lying and flying everywhere. Even the Indian Prime Minister extolled the Indians to make their cities clean in today’s maiden speech to the nation on the occasion of 68th Independence Day.

Driving etiquettes: In India it is a free for all on the roads and it is certainly not a pleasure to drive on the city roads. I was surprised that despite being an Asian nation the driving sense of Thai is European. Bangkok does have traffic jams during office hours but the drivers do not honk. At least I did not see any brawls on the road (unlike the daily road rage stories that we see and read in India).

Indian tourism authorities have a lot to learn from the Thailand experience.

Note: I was invited to visit Thailand by the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Thai Airways. I am thankful to them for their wonderful hospitality and the amazing experience that they provided.

Also read:
Phraya Nakhon Cave in the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park in Thailand
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