One of the most frequently put questions to the Minister of Tourism and Sports for Thailand, Mrs Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, is how the private sector can better collaborate with the Ministry of Tourism to enhance Thailand’s image as the world’s number one destination. The Minister stated that the Royal Thai government recognised the tourism industry as one of its prime economic sectors and hence, strong collaboration with the private sector was critical. She said that various groups such as hoteliers, tour operators, guides and so on were in constant contact with the MoT as also with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to discuss everything from regulatory changes to marketing plans.
The Minister was attending the WTM 2015 in London and stated clearly that the expectations from the fair were on two outcomes – marketing and publicity. In terms of the latter, the WTM, as always before, proved to be a good platform – indeed, TAT unveiled its new logo at the fair – while, insofar as marketing was concerned, the private sector partnered in promoting Thailand’s tourism products and services to the various tourism stakeholders. She also participated in the UNWTO & WTM Ministers’ Summit 2015 and hoped that her presence there would further enhance Thailand’s image.
TAT is now promoting secondary destinations within the country, apart from the tried-and-tested popular ones. The ‘12 Hidden Gems’ and the ‘12 Hidden Gems Plus’ have been introduced as new products to buyers at the WTM 2015. Alongside this, TAT is promoting various niche markets such as weddings and honeymoons; health and wellness; green tourism and others, to capture specific target preferences, especially from the high-spend segment.
With the Russian market to Thailand having declined somewhat, TAT is now revamping its ‘Affordable Luxury Plus Value of Experience’ strategy to the European markets and, while continuing to woo repeat visitors, will specifically target the relatively untapped, emerging markets of eastern Europe. “To that end, by February 2016, TAT will open a new office in Prague in the Czech Republic,” confirmed the Minister.
Europe is a market from which Thailand sees a high rate of repeat visits; based on the available 2014 data of international tourist arrivals to Thailand, the rate of revisits from the European market was as high as 62.44 per cent.
All eyes are obviously on the imminent ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and how the partner countries will be collaborating in terms of tourism. Thailand especially has a huge geographical advantage, placed between the ASEAN as well as the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS.) Low-cost airlines have already led the way in boosting connectivity to secondary destinations in Thailand, while a new network of highways linking cities along the South China Sea with those in the Bay of Bengal as also from Singapore to China, will criss-cross through Thailand. There is much excitement regarding the completion of a critical section of the Asian Highway from Thailand to India across Myanmar, projected for 2016, will also go far in establishing Thailand as the gateway for the GMS and the aviation hub for ASEAN. TAT is also working with Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei to tap the Muslim market.
Thailand has also taken the lead to introduce the “Two Countries One Destination” package to global travellers. “We will capitalise on our connectivity with Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. For example, we have just launched Chiang Mai-Mandalay-Bagan-Naypyitaw and will introduce Trat-Chanthaburi, Sihanu Ville and Siem Reap or Phu Quoc Island in Vietnam,” said Mrs Wattanavrangkul.