Minister of Tourism and Sports “Weerasak Kowsurat” Drives movement towards Tourism for All
(Author : Krisana Lalai President of Friendly Design for All Foundation
Translated by Nuttha Paisarnsrisomsuk and Benyapa Tancharoen)
On Friday afternoon, June 15 2018, at Tha Maharaj Community Mall in Phra Nakhon, Bangkok, Mr. Weerasak Kowsurat, the Minister of Tourism and Sport, along with Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn, Governor for Tourism Authority of Thailand, presided over the launch of the campaign to promote Thailand Tourism for All. The route of the campaign surveyed 3 areas that are modern tourist attractions along Chao Praya river, including Tha Maharaj Community Mall, Yodpiman River Walk, and Asiatique the Riverfront in Charoenkrung District.
The campaign’s goal is to drive industries and services related to tourism towards improvement and development in Friendly Design. This would provide facilities for all genders, all ages, and all physical conditions so that they can access to tourist attractions and services with convenience and safety, following the universal standards. Friendly Design should be applied in designing tourist attractions, hotels, resorts, homestays, restaurants, stations, public transports, services, and public areas.
After the open ceremony at Tha Maharaj, the Minister of Tourism and Sports experimented sitting on a wheelchair to survey facilities with tourists on wheelchairs within the area around Tha Maharaj. Although there is some Friendly Design, however; it has not been linked with each other and thus would require lifting wheelchairs clumsily in many areas.
After that, the Minister of Tourism and Sport and the survey-group took the passenger boat at Tha Maharaj towards “Yodpiman River Walk” that is connected to the Flower Market at Pak Khlong Talat. Inside the boat shows Friendly Design specific for wheelchair users. After that, they enjoyed the view along Chao Praya River where Friendly Design is in an acceptable standard; there are ramps connected to almost all the points since from the pier to the shops within the buildings.
For the restroom with Friendly Design on the 2nd floor, wheelchair users could use elevators to go to the facilities, but there is only one room. The executive of Yodpiman River Walk stated that in the future they may need to increase numbers of friendly designed restrooms for elders, people with disabilities, and wheelchair users to increasingly support tourism for all business.
Finally, the trip ended at one of the famous tourist attractions along Chao Praya River, Asiatique the Riverfront in Charoenkrung District in Bangkholaem District. Minister of Tourism and Sports and the survey-group travelled with tourist boats from Yodpiman River Walk to the pier at Asiatique the Riverfront where they were vividly greeted by Hanuman and Benjagie by the famous Joe Louis Thai Traditional Puppet Theater. Later, rain started to scatter down to cool the whole group.
Despite the rain, the Minister of Tourism and Sports and fellow tourists who used wheelchairs still travelled and surveyed facilities within Asiatique the Riverfront while tested getting on the Ferris wheel, which did not have Friendly Design to support wheelchair users. Thus, it required lifting these users on the Ferris wheel so that they could experience the view of Bangkok and Chao Praya river.
In the future, the executive of Asiatique the Riverfront confirmed that there would be improvement and development of Friendly Design to support groups of wheelchair users in order to successfully drive and support Thai tourism for all.
After surveying for Friendly Design in various tourist attractions as a part of “Thailand Tourism for All” project, Mr.Weerasak said that he had sit on the wheelchair himself in order to try out the wheelchair ramps, restroom usage, going down to the dock and getting on and off the boat in wheelchair. He realized that not having adequate facilities to support senior tourists, the differently abled tourists, wheelchair users, pregnant woman, family with small children and tourists with heavy luggage causes major difficulty accessing tourist attractions and public services.
Thailand Minister of Tourism also stated that he would use the data obtained from the survey to improve Thai tourism policy so that tourist attractions and other tourist services are readily accessible for everyone regardless of their age and physical condition. The main goal is to make Thailand a convenient, clean, safe, unique and sustainable tourist destination.
“Within this year, we’ll try to shape the 9 ‘Tourism for All’ destinations, as declared by Tourism Authority of Thailand, as prototype tourist attractions with Friendly Design for people of all ages in any physical conditions so that they can travel safely and conveniently. After that, we’ll expand the ‘Tourism for All’ project to other provinces.”
“Bangkok–Tourism for All Campaign” is a result of multilateral cooperation between Ministry of Tourism and Sports, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Friendly Design for All Foundation, Thai and international Friendly Design Ambassadors and many other organizations. Some of them are National Legislative Assembly of Thailand, Marine Department, Department of Land Transport, Ministry of Transport, Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (Public Organization), Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and Thai Cruise Association.
On September 14, 2017, Tourism Authority of Thailand launched the 9 “Tourism for All” destinations because Thailand is appointed by United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to host “World Tourism Day” on September,2016 with the theme being accessible tourism.
The aim is to raise awareness among tourism entrepreneurs about improving and providing Friendly Design facilities so as to support tourists from all walks of life regardless of their physical condition. The optimum result is a convenient, safe, fair and accessible travel for the elderly, the differently abled, wheelchair users and families with small children.
The aforementioned 9 “Tourism for All” destinations are Nature Lovers’ “Ratchaburi”, Breezy and Artistic “Pattaya, Chonburi”, urban “Bangkok”, authentic Lanna Kingdom “Chiangmai”, old town “Kanchanaburi”, Southern Pearl “Phuket”, Spicy Northeast “Khon Khaen”, ancient kingdom “Phra Nakhon Sri Ayutthaya” and a place known for its Yamo statue “Nakhon Ratchasima”.