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Chiang Mai Explores Rock Climbing Tourism Potential

Chiang Mai tourism leaders are pushing for the expansion of rock climbing as a means to tap into a global market of 44.5 million enthusiasts, believing the sport could become a pivotal economic driver for local communities. During Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s recent visit, Punlop Saejew, Acting President of the Chiang Mai Tourism Council, emphasized rock climbing’s potential, suggesting that hosting climbing championships could inject more than 1 billion baht into local economies.

The International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) data highlights Chiang Mai’s promising landscape for rock climbing. With the U.S. boasting 10.4 million climbers, including significant numbers visiting Chiang Mai, the potential for economic growth through climbing tourism is evident. The IFSC’s 2019 event in Colorado, which attracted 7,700 participants, underscores the economic impact and potential for prolonged tourist stays akin to major global sports events.

Punlop proposed leveraging rock climbing to spotlight Thailand’s lesser-known destinations and second-tier cities, citing Lampang, Krabi, and Surat Thani as potential climbing hubs due to their mountainous terrain. He pinpointed Chiang Mai’s Chai Prakan district for its deep caves with untapped climbing potential and highlighted the closure of the famous “Crazy Horse” limestone cliff in Mae On district in 2018, once a major revenue generator for the region.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s visit provided a platform for local officials to advocate for strategies to harness rock climbing’s economic benefits effectively. The potential to attract international climbers and extend visitor stays through climbing championships was a focal point of discussions, with Punlop Saejew expressing optimism about the role of rock climbing in diversifying and boosting Thailand’s tourism sector.

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