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Thai Tourism – Niche Marketing

October 18, 2013 Destination Thailand No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59TAT have excellent products at their disposal but not surprisingly promote all of them to all markets to maximise their ROI. They have good campaigns (7 wonders of Thailand for example) and their record breaking number of tourist arrivals is testament to Thailand’s intrinsic strengths and TAT’s marketing. 

Is it a good policy to be all things to all men in a general and generic way or should Thailand specialise as well?
Markets are changing and our marketing efforts also need to change. We should be cognisant not to just focus on destination but to also emphasise unique, new experiences that cannot be found else-where.

Andrew Wood shares his thoughts on marketing destinations in today's high speed, high volume age.

Andrew Wood shares his thoughts on marketing destinations in today’s high speed, high volume age.

Thailand is a leader in the field of medical tourism and was a pioneer in Asia in this very lucrative niche. Medical tourist arrivals to Thailand is a 40 per cent of all Asia medical tourist arrivals in 2011. Its medical tourism market was around US$ 2 Billion in 2011 and it is expected to be more than double by 2015. Thailand has world-class medical facilities with its high-profile private hospitals and clinics. Thailand has been one of the favourite medical tourism destinations. This is due to our cultural heritage, state-of-the-art medical facilities, personalised hospitality and reasonable medical costs. The country takes pride in having the first hospital to receive the first JCI accreditation in Asia. It has the highest number of JCI accredited hospitals in Asia.
We can learn lessons from this successful marketing campaign. Thailand identified a demand in the market and with our unique ability to offer high levels of service at relatively low cost and with companies, such as Bangkok Bank investing in a total integrated 5 star hospital experience in Bumrungrad, Thailand is able to provide world-class products to a market that was hungry for easily accessible and affordable quality medical care.
It is a specialised market requiring specialised promotion and specialised attendance at very specific tradeshows and conventions. Thailand’s record shows what can be done with a very careful rifle-shot approach to marketing (narrow and very targeted) as opposed to a shot-gun approach.
According to the UNWTO in 2007, over half a million Americans travelled abroad to receive medical treatment and since 2003, 1.29 million Britons aged 16 to 64 had dental treatment outside the UK because it was more economical.
These are not isolated trends. Every year, increasing number of patients from around the globe seek healthcare abroad either for economic reasons or to find better quality treatment and overcome long waiting lists. The picture that emerges is of increasing mobile patients with greater choices of where to receive quality treatment at competitive prices.
By 2015, the health of the so-called Baby Boomer generation will have started to decline. With more than 220 million Baby Boomers in the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, this represents a significant market for Thailand for cost-effective and high-quality medical care, and has enormous potential for Thailand’s health tourism.
Last week I attended a meeting with a potential client, they were  visiting Bangkok for the fourth time this year. Their latest visit was to attend ITCMA at the Centara Grand & Bangkok Convention Centre at CentralWorld. They deal exclusively in school sports tourism. It’s a HUGE niche market and we hope to tap into international schools travelling abroad with pupils, educators and parents. By their very nature private independent schools are economically a different animal to what we might traditionally imagine. They have funds and opportunities for travel that is little understood.
You don’t need to be an expert to realise the Chinese are definitely coming to Thailand. Their presence and their numbers are clearly visible.
During my visit to Shanghai earlier this year I was briefed by the TAT office on the expected number of arrivals to Thailand over the next few years.
4.2m Chinese arrivals from an expected total of 24.5m from all markets i.e. 1 in 7 tourists visiting Thailand in 2013 will be Chinese, rising to 1 in 5 next year. This is definitely not a niche market. China is the new top-gun and will play an increasingly important role in world tourism.
Will there be a back-lash to such a weighted mix? Yes I believe so, not just because of Thai’s response to tourist’s cultural/behavioural traits but also the risk of too many eggs in one basket not being good for business. One of the dangers of mass markets.
Spreading the risk is important and niche markets can help. I believe that we need to offer, like medical tourism, complete integrated packages that offer potential customers a one-stop-shop approach that offers everything including a unique world class experiences be it golf, spas, beach/resorts, cooking, sporting or cultural experiences. Luxury will also have a place and is  usually recession proof. Stretch the imagination – potential arrivals will pay for unique once -in-a-lifetime experiences and travel great distances to find them.
Bespoke tourism – tailor made to your whims, likes and dis-likes. It doesn’t get more unique. Tourism Thailand needs Platinum quality travel professionals to sell dreams not just holidays. If we can incentivise these visitors with tax breaks such as tax deductibles or VAT refunds and funnel marketing funds to the private sector too, all the better.
Written by : Andrew J Wood         

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