"The philosophy of economic sufficiency" is based on development that is cautious and not overconfident.It emphasises moderation, reason, a strong "immune system", maturity and ethics in all actions and decisions. It is designed to ward off the consequences of any impact caused by both external and internal changes." Today, these philosophies do not figure prominently in Thai tourism policies or marketing programmes. The official push is for 20 million visitors by 2008, a target based more on realpolitik with littleallowance made for social, cultural and environmental impact. It leads to a further commoditisation of the industry and a discount-led race to the bottom. As yield from tourism heads south, the costs ofinfrastructure, development and marketing are heading north, meaning that visitors are getting better and better products and services at lower and lower rates. This is clearly unsustainable. Thai travel & tourism pays scant attention to management of destinations, product quality, manpower issues, regulatory structures,etc. Applying the principles of sufficiency tourism will mean taking a longer-term view, ensuring a better balance between visitor numbers, the resources they consume, the investment required and the amounts that exit the country via marketing fees, capital costs, etc. Indeed, if the amounts spent on airports and aircraft are factored into the so-called Tourism Satellite Accounts, as well as the amounts spent by Thais travelling abroad, travel & tourism is almost certainlyoperating in the red. A full-scale conference just on the theme of sufficiency tourism would help bring together the best minds to take the concept forward. The papers could be compiled into a proper road-map that can be institutionalised and applied by both the private and public sectors. King Bhumibol's "sufficiency economy" offers a more sustainable solution- more manageable, more realistic, less of a drain on natural and cultural resources and better suited to the broader Millennium Development Goals. If Thailand takes the lead, other countries in the Mekong region may well follow, triggering a chain reaction that could drastically reshape the industry right across the developing world.
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