It has emerged that the Tourism Authority of Thailand is making plans to promote Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai, where a dramatic rescue of a children’s football team was completed on Tuesday, as a major tourist attraction.

The authority’s director at the Chiang Rai office, Karuna Dechatiwong, was quoted by the Bangkok Post as saying the organisation would work with local officials and the private sector to promote the cave as it anticipates a bounce in tourist numbers following the rescue.

“After the rescue team found the 12 young football players and their coach . . . the cave has become of interest for both local and foreign travellers,” she said, adding that the tourism agency is ready to work out a route to the cave and other destinations in Chiang Rai.

The promotion of the province as an adventure destination has also been floated by Thailand’s tourism and sports minister Weerasak Kowsurat and Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osot-Thanakorn.

Is there any circumstance in which you can picture a Tourism Ireland official suggesting that the nation capitalise on the scene of a tragedy (a navy seal died during the rescue operation) by opening up a dangerous underground cave prone to disastrous flooding to tourists?

Of course not. But in Thailand there will most likely be many takers – at least in the short term and many people will view a trip to the cave as the crowning achievement of a year adventuring around the world or a fortnight travelling through Thailand.

Adventure tourism is certainly big business and it is getting bigger. Worldwide it is valued at more than €250 billion or more than twice the estimated worth of the international cruise business. Its attractions for a largely young cohort are not hard to see – particularly in the era of Instagram when people can show the world how daring they are and how amazing their trips are in real time.

Caving, climbing, whitewater rafting, scuba diving, surfing, paddle-boarding, snowboarding and throwing yourself off a bridge over the Zambezi spitting distance from the Victoria Falls are just some of white knuckle offerings available to adventurous travellers now.

But there is a word of caution. In Ireland – and in many other developed countries – health and safety legislation as well as fears of litigation and exacting standards set by insurance companies – mean that such activities can be embarked up with a degree of comfort.


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