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Experts say the government needs to get serious on the long-term development of the tourism industry, and decide whether quality or quantity – that is, sheer numbers of tourists or how much they spend – is of most importance.

According to Ben Montgomery, chairwoman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association’s Thailand Chapter, PATA’s latest marketing study suggests Thailand could see 50 million annual arrivals by the end of the decade, double the 24.8 million it welcomed last year.

She said the association was concerned about the possible long-term impacts of such an influx, placing a strain on the country’s resources and triggering social problems. Ben and other tourism experts question whether the Kingdom can guarantee that many people a pleasant and safe experience during their stay.

Serious attention to this matter was given last week at a discussion panel hosted by the PATA Thailand Chapter, which concluded that the tourism industry needed critical analysis and careful interpretation.

PATA also suggested that the government decide whether to focus on the number of tourists or their quality before it completes a new national tourism master plan.

John Koldowski, a tourism expert from Thammasat University’s College of Innovation, said it must be remembered that demand forecasts may not necessarily equate with actual results because of a multitude of intervening factors during the forecast period.

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