Thailand is positioning itself as a dream destination for sports tourism by promoting the kingdom’s world-class sporting facilities, wide-ranging expertise, and reputation for hosting successful regional and international sporting events and tournaments.
H.E. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Thailand’s Minister of Tourism and Sports, unveiled the plan to turn Thailand into a sporting hub to delegates attending the Thailand Travel Mart Plus Amazing Gateway to the Greater Mekong Sub-Region 2016 (TTM+ 2016). This event opened today (8 June 2016) at the Chiang Mai International Exhibition and Convention Centre and was attended by tourism professionals from all over the world.
Her Excellency said, “Thailand is entering the sports and tourism era, and I would like to invite the world to enjoy some of the many opportunities the kingdom can offer sport-loving tourists – whether you are enthusiastic amateurs, professionals or somewhere in between. Sports can give people a new way to enjoy and experience Thailand – playing games of golf or football with friends, taking in the scenery while cycling or running or meeting, and competing with Thai people at any of our gyms and sports centres.”
Sports; such as golf, are already popular among tourists coming to Thailand and the kingdom boasts over 300 world-class courses. But now, the Royal Thai Government, with the support of the Sports Authority of Thailand and the Tourism Authority of Thailand, wants to help visitors discover other facilities where tourists can enjoy sporting activities. These include 5,000 boxing rings, many with Muay Thai training centres, over 50 diving clubs, and an increasing network of urban and rural cycling lanes which are spreading across the country and are being promoted at a government level.
These world-class facilities mean that Thailand has already played host to many international sports events including the 1997 and 2007 World Weightlifting Championships, the 2014 Asian Beach Games, the 2015 Asian Cycling Championships, and the World Touring Car Championships 2015 (WTCC) held at the Chang International Circuit in Buri Ram province. There are also popular boating events; such as, the annual King’s Regatta which takes place every year off Phuket. Thailand has also hosted the Asian Games four times and the South East Asian (SEA) Games three times.
In addition, Thailand itself has a proud sporting history and many of the kingdom’s sportsmen and women have earned renown at an international level. These include Badminton player Ratchanon Inthanon who was the first Thai to become Number One in the Women’s Singles and who became World Champion in 2014, and rising golfer Ariya Jutanugarn, who is the first player in the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour history to get her first three wins consecutively and is now number 10 in the world rankings. Team sports are popular in Thailand too, and the National Volleyball Team recently ranked 13th in the world.
In terms of training and facilities, there are four national training centres in Saraburi, Nakhon Ratchasima, Songkhla and Chiang Mai. There are also private facilities up and down the country that can be used by sports lovers including Thanyapura Phuket, which has some of the best sports facilities in Asia including two 50-metre Olympic class swimming pools, and is the first Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) training centre in Southeast Asia. Many international sports people and teams come to Thanyapura to train including the British and Australian national swimming teams.
In addition, Stamford International University in Bangkok recently partnered with Real Madrid to offer the first MBA in Sports Management in Thailand to train a new generation of sports trainers.
H.E. Kobkarn concluded, “Thai people have always been crazy about sports, but now we want Thailand to be seen as a centre of sports excellence too, and for people to come here to develop their skills and enjoy their favourite sports, on land and in the water. With our outdoor lifestyles and range of destinations, we have the potential to be a magnet for sportsmen and women.”