Tourism plays a very important part in the Thai economy, accounting for roughly 6% of the country’s GDP. And despite the difficulties in recent years,the clear long term trend has been for significant increases in the number of foreign tourists visiting Thailand, and even greater increases in revenue from tourism.
The more than 22 million foreign tourists who visited Thailand in 2012 was almost double the number in 2005; the number of foreign tourists in 2012 was up some 7% over the 2011 figure, their spending in 2012 rose by over 17%; the rate of growth in domestic tourism/trips has also broadly kept pace in terms of revenue from foreign tourists, with an 8% increase in 2012 from 2011; the 2013 Global Destination Cities Index has placed Bangkok as the number one most visited city in the world.
Globally, the tourist industry is generally known for its high elasticity of demand, so these results are particularly impressive given not just the difficulties within Thailand, but also economic recession in many developed countries.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is a state enterprise responsible for the promotion of tourism in Thailand. Originally established as the “Tourism Promotion Organization” under another law on state enterprise in 1959 and later on reorganized and renamed as the TAT in 1979, the TAT was the first organization in Thailand responsible specifically for the growth, direction and development of tourism in Thailand. Despite its name, the TAT is a state enterprise and should not be confused with the Department of Tourism (previously known as the “Office of Tourism Development”) of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, which is a government agency responsible for tourism-related licenses, permits and registrations.
The structure, objectives and functions of the TAT are set out in the Tourism Authority of Thailand Act B.E. 2522 (1979), as revised in 2007 (the Act), which are briefly outlined below.
The TAT is a legal entity in its own right, with core objectives of promoting tourism and the tourist industry, publicizing Thailand’s tourist attractions, facilitating the convenience and security of tourists, promoting better understanding and relationships between people and countries through tourism, and initiating the development of tourist facilities.
Under the Act, the TAT is given very broad powers to implement its core objectives, including the right to designate places as tourist sites, lend and borrow money, advise, train, educate, access and compile data (from the private and public sectors), and own, construct on and lease real estate both in Thailand and overseas.
Although the Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism and Sports are charged with overall Ministerial supervision of the TAT, the TAT Board (the Board) plays a significant role in determining the directions and policies of TAT while giving the operational guidelines for TAT executives and monitoring budget expenditures and the results of all TAT’s important operations.
The TAT Act provides that the Board shall include the following persons or their representatives: the Chairman as appointed by the Minister of Tourism and Sports, the Under-Secretary for Finance, the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, the Under-Secretary for Tourism and Sports, the Under-Secretary for Transport, the Under-Secretary for Commerce, the Under-Secretary for Interior, the Secretary-General of the Council of State, the Chairman of the Tourism Council of Thailand, two representatives from the Tourism Council of Thailand , the Governor of the TAT (as appointed by the Board of TAT) as well as up to three qualified persons appointed by the Minister of Tourism and Sports. Board members (other than ex-officio members) who are appointed by the Minister of Tourism and Sports (including the Chairman of the TAT) have an initial term of two years.
The Board has broad powers to issue rules, regulations and establish TAT policy, as well as appoint the Governor, committees and subcommittees (of which there were 9 in 2012). The Governor is the person empowered and obligated to implement all TAT’s business in accordance with the Board’s resolutions, policy directives and TAT’s rules, regulations and the law. He is responsible to the Board for all of TAT’s business operations, and has co-control over all personnel matters together with the Deputy Governor. The Governor has the authority to represent the TAT to third parties.
TAT’s revenues are sizable. In 2012, TAT earned more than 5.4 billion Baht, around 95.5% of which was from government funding, with the remainder earned from the TAT’s sales and services.
TAT has its head office in Bangkok and 35 local offices throughout Thailand, as well as overseas offices in London, Frankfurt, Paris, Rome, Stockholm, Moscow, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Jakarta, Hong Kong, Beijing, Chengdu, Taipei, Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, Seoul, New Delhi, Mumbai, Ho Chi Minh, Dubai, Shanghai, Kunming, New York, Los Angeles and Sydney.
For more information about the TAT, please visit the TAT’s website:www.tourismthailand.org/About-TAT