The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) recently concluded its 12th Thailand Travel Mart (TTM) in Bangkok. The TTM+ attracted several buyers from across the world to interact and forge business relations with Thai products and service providers. And, the growing interest of Thailand as a destination for Indian tourists was evident by the fact that Indian buyers were the second largest contingent at the Mart this year. As many as 27 Indian buyers visited TTM+ this year, surpassed only by UK with 33 buyers.
TTM+ is mainly designed to benefit SME travel products and services, in particular those that cannot afford international marketing initiatives but need access to contacts and networking opportunities. Most of the SME exhibitors this year were deluxe boutique hotels and resorts, which have proliferated across Thailand. Other new products were biking tours, cooking schools, Thai boxing stadiums, health and wellness centres and Thai massage schools. TTM+ witnessed the presence of 395 companies and organisations this year, of which 22 per cent were first time exhibitors.
TTM+ also provides exposure to emerging provincial destinations, thus helping to meet the national economic development strategy of better distributing income around the country. A TAT media briefing on the state of the Thai tourism industry, and future prospects was attended by 100 international and local media. The Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau also took the opportunity to brief the media about its projects and plans.
In addition to this, taking advantage of this platform, the Mart witnessed upcoming destinations such as Cambodia and the Yunnan Province highlight their products through media presentations during the course of the four day event.
Other innovations this year included a forum for Buyers and Sellers, two keynote sessions and a debate on creative travel and Do It Yourself (DIY) in Tourism. The two Keynote sessions was on “Changing Destination Perceptions Through Creative Tourism” and “DIY in tourism: Dynamic Packaging, Pros And Cons,” followed by a debate, which took place for the first time at TTM+.
India among three rapid growth markets for Thailand
Addressing the media during TTM+, Juthaporn Rerngronasa, Deputy Governor of for International Marketing (Europe, Africa, Middle East, and the Americas), TAT revealed that Thailand achieved another record-breaking performance, crossing the 22 million mark for the first time. She further stated that, in 2012, the three rapid growth markets were China, Russia and, India, whose growth rates were in double digits. She surged ahead saying that the year 2013 is shaping up to be another very good year for Thai tourism.
“In 2013, TAT is confident that if the global, regional and local situation remains stable, Thailand will receive 24.14 million arrivals, generating a projected tourism income of 1.1 trillion Baht or US$ 37.05 billion,” she said.
Highlighting TAT’s marketing strategy for the year, Rerngronasa added that the core theme of the 2013 TAT Action Plan is “Higher Revenue through Thainess.” She commented that, for a few years now, TAT has been a proponent of employing the concept of Modern Marketing in every facet of its operations. The aim, she added, is to actively engage with customers through the extensive use of online marketing tools and social media platforms.
“To give a fun and catchy name to our plan, we are calling it our DISCO Plan. DISCO comprises five components - Digital Marketing, Image Building, Sustainability, Crystallisation and Crisis Communication, and Organisation Management,” she said.
She went on to reveal that the Thai Government has entrusted TAT with task of helping the country to achieve a tourism revenue target of 2 trillion Baht or US$ 65 billion in 2015. “We feel that to do this successfully we must adjust our strategy to pursue the high-yield segments more. Therefore, for a few years now, we have been concentrating on 4 niche markets that Thailand already has a good supply of and that there is much demand for them in the travel community. They are Golf, Health and Wellness, Wedding and Honeymoon, and Green Tourism,” she opined.
60% of Indians arrivals are repeat visitors
Having successfully crossed the 1 million Indian tourist arrival mark, Thailand’s new aim is to receive 1.2 million Indian visitors in 2013, Phanom Karibura, Executive Director, ASEAN, South Asia and South Pacific Region Department, TAT revealed on the sidelines of TTM+. Speaking about their strategy to achieve these numbers, Karibura stated that TAT’s strategy won’t be different this year, but their target segment will. “We are now looking to tap high-end luxury Indian travellers, especially in the wedding segment. We also have a project called ‘My Own Jet’, allowing customers to book a private jet to come to Thailand. Indians have made several enquiries about the possibility of booking a jet, leading us to plan to push this product in the market. We will also focus on Golf. While niche travellers will be our main focus this year, it does not mean we will ignore the mass market. We will continue to tap that segment as well,” he added.
He further stated that TAT is trying to promote new destinations within the country to encourage travellers to explore Thailand further. “We are trying to introduce new destinations such as the Ratchasima Province which is not far from Bangkok. They have shopping outlets, golf courses, a vineyard, a national park and great weather. We have brought several FAM trips to the destination last year and extended their trip up to Chiang Mai, Phuket and so on. Indian tourists are still not big market for Chiang Mai so trying the effort to promote it has been more,” said Karibura.
Suladda Sarutilavan, Asst Director - TAT Mumbai, added that Thailand witnesses several repeat visitors from India. According to her, the ratio for repeat and new visitors is 60:40 and the repeat travellers are the ones who explore a new destination every time they visit. “They usually do Bangkok and Pattaya on trip one, and then combine Bangkok and Phuket in trip two and so on. Bangkok has so far always been the base. This will probably change and Phuket will witness more footfall as a result of the Thai Smile direct flights going forward,” she said.
Tourism contributes 8-10 per cent to Thailand’s economy. However, Karibura revealed that the country still lacks the kind of accommodation required for its tourism inflow, especially in the five star category. Furthermore, he stated, cruise tourism holds tremendous potential. However, lack of infrastructure at ports is a hurdle for the development of the same. “Fortunately, air connectivity is good. We currently have direct flights to Phuket and 160 flights to Bangkok from India,” he added.
Sarutilavan further revealed that Thai Smile plans to add flights from Kochi to Bangkok soon. The carrier is awaiting approvals from the Indian government for the same. “In another two years, we will join the AEC so we are trying to promote connectivity to our neighbouring countries. We are hoping to get clearance for a single visa for all the countries similar to the Schengen visa,” said Karibura.
Highlighting the secret to Thailand’s success, Karibura commented, “We think Indians love to shop However, they are hesitant or unsure of what to do. We want them to explore Chiang Mai, Phuket etc.”
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