Thailand's Minister of Tourism and Sports Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul has praised preparations for next month's Asian Beach Games in Phuket, claiming the event is a major opportunity for the regional tourism industry.
Speaking during a visit to the Games venues, Wattanavrangkul spoke positively about progress and described how it could boost Phuket, a major tourist hub in the Southeast Asian country.
It comes less than a month before the Games are due to begin on November 14, with 6,000 athletes representing 45 countries set to compete in 26 beach or sea sports.
"We must take this opportunity to impress them.
"We want to push the sports-tourism image of Phuket and make sure that visitors form fond memories of the island to ensure that they will return."
This comes after a difficult year for Thailand, with the Constitutional Court ordering Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and several ministers out of office in May following several months of protest.
General Prayuth Chan-ocha was appointed Prime Minister in August and since then a gradual relaxation of tensions has eased fears over the Games being affected.
Last month, two British tourists, Hannah Witheridge and David Miller, were also murdered while on holiday on the island of Koh Tao, 285 kilometres to the north-east of Phuket, exacerbating concerns over the safety of tourists in the country.
But Kobkarn has promised visitors attending the Asian Beach Games that they will be safe.
Phuket Governor Nisit Jansomwong welcomed the Minister's support and promised that hotels are "ready to welcome the athletes", while the local population is also being mobilised to offer support.
"They will mainly help event staff communicate with those around them, but they will also be in charge of cleaning the area and preparing the fields for each competition," he said.
"Hotel operators have been very cooperative.
"We expect that tourists will experience great service, as we are making sure that they will be offered deals and transportation options to the event.
"More than two thousand volunteers from schools and universities in Phuket will be on hand for various tasks during the Games."
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