Indonesia’s Bangka island, which sits in the calm waters near the northeastern tip of Sumatra, can be on par with Thailand’s famed Phuket as a tourist destination, if the regional government develops policies in line with the interests of local communities, according to a Thai official.
“I believe Bangka tourism can be as good or even better than Phuket, provided the authorities are able to make policies keeping in mind the aspirations of local communities,” said Wanna Cholpraves, the Director of International Tourism Cooperation from Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports.
Cholpraves was speaking at the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) working group meeting at Pangkalan Baru on Friday.
“The local community is the driver of tourism. We promote and sell the local tradition, customs and culture in addition to the area’s natural beauty. Therefore, we have to listen to them and learn about their needs,” Cholpraves said. She added that the government must develop infrastructure in order to make the tourism destinations more accessible.
“Tourism is all about development. You cannot stop building if you want tourism to grow,” Cholpraves pointed out.
Both Bangka and Phuket are both blessed (or perhaps cursed) with an abundance of natural resources, particularly tin minerals. There have been several mining ventures on each island, which Cholpraves said has caused environmental damage.
However, after the last tin miners left Phuket, the island was able to become one of the world’s top tourist destinations.
“Now, the people in Phuket have realized that the contribution of tourism is much greater than that of mining. The government supports pro-people policies and focuses on tourism,” Cholpraves noted.
Based on data from the Thailand Office of Tourism Development, the number of international tourist arrivals in Thailand has significantly risen, especially from 2009 onwards.
In 2009, Thailand had 14.15 million visitors; in 2011 that number rose to a record 19.1 million visitors.