Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
People on the Move
N° 96 (Suppl.), December 2004
SITUATION AND ITS PASTORAL CARE
H.E. Msgr. Lawrence SAMANCHIT
Bishop of Chantaburi,
Catholic Commission for Tourism,
Thailand is at the front line in tourism for the Asian region; maybe, only next to China. Tourism generates about 300,000 million Baht of income from approximately 9.5 million international travelers. It is an economy which is able to sustain the country in the time of economic crisis. In the last year of Number 9 National Economic Development Plan of Thailand it expects no less than 14 million tourists who would come to visit Thailand. The annual increase rate of international travelers is expected at 7%, while the Thai travelers in the year 2006 are forecasted at 59 million.
World Tourism Organization estimates global tourism growth rate between A.D. 2000 – 2010 at 4.2% and that within Asia Pacific at 7.7% WTO forecasts tourism growth of Thailand at 7.8% during 2002 – 2006, which is the period of the Number 9 National Economic Development Plan. The most important factors are mostly likely to be the economic slump of the United States and the continuous economic degradation of Japan. These factors will definitely send a negative impact toward international tourism within the region which is still under the economic recovery. This is the sign that competition to attract tourists will be more acute, notwithstanding that the neighboring countries such as Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia are having their internal political and social problems which are diminishing the tourism atmosphere, and yet their low cost is certainly a competition.
Thailand is one of the most attractive sight-seeing places in south-east Asia. The Number 8 National Economic Development Plan of Thailand has developed both goods and services in view of tourism, but the highlight of Thailand, considered to be superior to other neighboring countries, is the amicability of the people, a high level of private investment and worth-your-money services. The latter is very important for the people of high income and education. Our democratic government stresses participation of the people. With all the above-mentioned positive aspects Thailand has become the sight seeing as well as holiday destination.
Sustainable Tourism Strategy
Currently several tourism sights such as Samui and Chang islands has over-developed its natural capacity. Many tourism activities create negative impact on both short and long-term tourism environments. There should be, therefore, strict and effective measures to control negative impact on the environment from tourism.
Tourism Marketing Strategy for A.D. 2004
Target within the tourism strategic framework of Thailand
This is to lay the foundation for Thailand to be the Tourism Capital of Asia.
The targets are foreign marketing group and domestic marketing group.
The number of tourists visiting Thailand has somewhat decreased due to the IMF economic, SARS and terrorism crises.
We are honored that the Pontifical Council for Tourism convenes the 6th World Congress in Thailand. All the participants of this Congress would realize tourism problems which are facing their respective countries due to the fact that the tourism module of today has drastically changed. Formerly tourism was aimed at the social, cultural and natural study. It was done with praiseworthy awareness, with respect to the visiting place which is an etiquette of a good tourist.
Today, however, the world is changed due to the economic advancement, the IT and all kinds of technology which increasingly influences humanity. These things are decreasing the human harmonious fraternity, causing human inner behavior to be less understood and less contact with real nature. All these have hardened the human heart; thus giving more importance to materials than the spiritual value. All the changes which I have just mentioned are a part that sends a negative impact to tourism of today: i.e. men prefer to seek convenience, enjoy only materials, run after economic abundance, give importance to sexuality, neither responsible for the nature and its environment nor good cultures of the host country.
As far as Thailand is concerned tourism of the past has caused a negative impact on the people’s way of life, income distribution, environment including crimes and cheating of the tourists. The Royal Thai Government, however, has not turned its blind eyes to the problems. It tries to solve such problems by promoting a more holistic conservation tourism, educating concerned personnel on sound tourism, supporting the youth to make a tour with good awareness. With the trend of future increase in tourism for entertainment it is hoped that there will be a conformity with what the Thai government is trying to achieve.
The pastoral care undertaken by the Church in Thailand is not much. To mention some of them:
1. Distribution of leaflets with information on the Catholic Churches, sight seeing places and time table of Sunday Mass services.
2. Support and promotion of pilgrimages both in and outside of the country.
3. Meeting with tour companies and Catholic guides with an exposure to the stand and Church’s policy regarding tourism.
4. Information and propagation of the Holy Father’s message on the World Tourism Day.
Further more, the Church in Thailand has also given support toward occupation of the people within the area of her responsibility in order to reduce the number of migration, to avoid unsuitable type of occupation, labor selling or working in the service business, which is in consonance with the Pope’s desire to make tourism as a means to reduce poverty. If the community can be self-dependent that community will be strong, enjoy a good standard of living and be a party instilling an awareness to love their homeland and nature. Besides, the Church also promotes conservation tourism encouraging tourists to learn and be in touch with the people’s way of living rather than letting the folks to come out to show their cultural performances, so that tourists will better understand the villagers’ real way of life.
So you can see that both the government and the Catholic Church in Thailand are trying to solve the tourism problems of today which could be similar to other countries whose representation participate in this Congress. We should put our heads together to tackle the problems. Hence, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People convenes this Congress with the following objectives:
1. To open the window of opportunity for those whose mission is on pastoral care for tourism from the different Bishop’s Conferences of the world to make a joint consideration on the situations which can be detrimental to tourism of today.
2. To make suggestions of solutions for the current problems so that leaders of the pastoral care of tourism can adopt and adapt for use in their own respective countries.
For organizing this Congress we have received cooperation from many sectors: both from the government and private institutions such as the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Mrs. Pattama and Dr. Somsak Lisawastrakul, to all of whom our organizing committee would take this opportunity to thank everybody concerned very sincerely. I want to extend my special thanks to the Pontifical Council for Tourism for selecting Thailand to be the venue of its 6th World Congress with the topic on: “TOURISM AT THE SERVICE OF BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER”. It is hoped that this Congress will contribute improvement of the quality and efficiency for the Catholic Commission for Tourism in Thailand as well as in other countries in this epoch of globalization.
May the Holy Spirit shed His guiding light on this Congress in order that it may achieve its objectives, so that the Church will become both the sign and instrument of salvation for all mankind and to make contribution toward development of this world until it becomes God’s perfect Kingdom of love, justice and peace.