With a number of high profile sporting events taking place in Khon Kaen,
the northeastern city is picking up pace as a sports tourism destination.

Often dubbed the Gateway to the Greater Mekong Sub-Region (GMS), Khon Kaen is perfectly positioned to attract sports tourism from all over the region.

With the benefits of sports tourism becoming ever more apparent, cities large and small vie to attract this important tourism segment. While no commonly agreed on definition of sports tourism exists, the term typically refers to travelling from one place to another to watch or participate in a sporting event.

Due to the recreational nature of the segment, sports tourists are typically middle to high income people with disposable income, and more and more cities are realising the benefits of attracting such tourists.

Khon Kaen is no different. With its own airport with daily flights to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Hat Yai, the city is well connected to major transportation hubs around Thailand, and a rich cultural make-up adds to the attraction.

One of the major sporting events that are attracting thousands of participants every year is the Khon Kaen International Marathon. Held in January 2018 for the 15th consecutive year, the event regularly attracts between 30,000 to 40,000 runners from Thailand and beyond, injecting millions of baht into the local economy.

Attracting sports tourism to Khon Kaen is not just on the agenda for local authorities – it has been a priority of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT) for some time. In 2016, then Tourism and Sports Minister, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, introduced a major new sports tourism campaign aimed at promoting the country at an international level.

“Thailand can use sports tourism to attract travellers as well as encourage foreign athletes to stay longer and spend time in the country at training camps,” Ms. Wattanavrangkul said. “We aim to promote Thailand as a sports hub focusing on drawing major sports bodies to host their events, while promoting year-round sport activities such as biking.”

Earlier this year at the announcement of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Destination Marketing Forum 2018 which will take place in Khon Kaen, the TAT also introduced the New Shades campaign that encourages visitors to experience Thailand and its diversity in a new light by visiting lesser known destinations such as Khon Kaen.

Dr. Mario Hardy, PATA CEO, said: “PATA is a strong advocate on the issue of tourism dispersal to secondary and tertiary destinations, as it allows people to see the true authentic beauty of the country and its people, and at the same time provide an economic boost to local communities who greatly benefit from tourism.”

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