Thailand’s most important travel trade show, the Thailand Travel Mart Plus Amazing Gateway to the Greater Mekong Sub-region, has just completed another successful promotion at the Ocean Marina Yacht Club, Pattaya, the largest marina in Southeast Asia. It was the second time that this fantastic venue has hosted the event.
The TTM+ 2019, Thailand’s leading annual B2B travel show, was held under the theme of ‘New Shades of Emerging Destinations’ as part of the TAT strategy to promote 55 provincial destinations that are already popular with domestic tourists and increasingly preferable by international visitors. This approach was taken to assist in further dispersal of international tourists, to create spatial benefits and opportunities to up-and-coming lesser known areas of the country, while easing the social and environmental pressures on established resorts. For example, Chiang Mai is a great hub destination from which to explore other local areas such as Chiang Rai, Lampang and Nan. In the south, Koh Samui is easily paired with Chumpon and Ranong.
This year the event attracted 339 buyers from 51 countries. The buyers from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East make up the majority of all, followed by ASEAN, South Asia, the South Pacific, and East Asia, respectively. They met with 370 sellers, comprising hotels and resorts, tour operators, emerging destinations, the Greater Mekong Sub-region, national tourism organisations, and others. Hotels and resorts shared the largest number of sellers.
Irish visitors continue to prefer Thailand as their top long-haul destination with a total of 69,074 visiting the kingdom in 2018. While there they spent 4.5 billion Thai Baht.
Speaking at TTM+ 2019, Tanes Petsuwan, TAT Deputy Governor for Marketing Communications, said that in 2018 the Thai tourism industry recorded a total of 38 million international arrivals, up by 7.54%, generating an estimated US$62 billion, up by 9.63% over 2017. The top five source markets were China, with more than 10 million arrivals, Malaysia, South Korea, Lao PDR, and Japan, while ASEAN for the first time exceeded 10 million visitors in 2018.
This year, TAT has set a growth target of 12% in tourism revenue from the international market.
In 2019 TAT has continuously moved Thailand towards the ‘Preferred Destination’. It is offering quality products and services to travellers through Unique Local Experiences while balancing quantity versus quality, and marketing versus management. Accordingly, responsible tourism is what will be emphasised from now on to achieve that goal. The key will be to manage those numbers and inculcate a higher level of environmental consciousness across the entire industry.
To action this strategy, this year, TAT is undertaking a range of environmental initiatives. For example, TAT has carried on its CSR activities ‘Travel Thailand in Style, Reduce Plastic Waste’ in collaboration with the public and private sector partners to encourage tourists to travel responsibly by leaving only footprints and taking only good memories.
New Shades of Emerging Destinations
The TTM+ 2019 was held under the theme of ‘New Shades of Emerging Destinations’. TAT has stepped up its efforts to promote the emerging destinations for many years, such as the ‘12 Hidden Gems and 12 Hidden Gems Plus’ with the aim to create jobs and distribute revenue countrywide, from major cities to local communities, while creating sustainability by balancing the number of visitors to the destinations. Right now, the emerging destinations have expanded to 55 cities offered to both the international and domestic markets. In 2018 there were six million trips by foreign tourists to these cities, a growth of 4.95% over the last year.
Besides, the emerging cities will be optional destinations for those who seek off-the-beaten-path holidays and repeaters who are looking for new products. The destinations offer diversity of culture, history, way of life, and so on that have yet been unexplored – so promoting the emerging destinations will be integrated in all of TAT’s marketing and communication strategies.
‘Open to the New Shades’
TAT’s communication concept ‘Open to the New Shades’ has been used to enhance awareness about the emerging destinations. It has been well aligned with the marketing direction and sends out the right message to motivate tourists to explore the undiscovered experiences in Thailand.
According to its key idea, ‘Open to the New Shades’ is a communication concept that encourages travellers to expand their experiences and uncovers a new perception of attractions in Thailand. It is aimed at attracting more repeat visitors to seek the ‘shade’ unexplored and also first-time visitors.
In 2018 TAT placed emphasis on these two keywords. One is ‘Open’, asking the travellers themselves to ‘OPEN’ their minds and hearts, the other is ‘Shades’, which refers to the diversity or millions of experiences that await for them to discover. In 2019 this journey is developed from diversifying the experiences to highlight the immersive tourism. In other words, tourists are encouraged to engage themselves with those experiences about those shades in a deeper level through hands-on activities.
TAT has been promoting the emerging destinations for a couple of years and the attempt has started to pay off as some of these cities have seen growing arrivals of international tourists in the past few years:
Chiang Rai: No one would not know this city after a mission to help ‘the Wild Boars’ last year. It has also climbed to the most visited emerging city in recent years and has become the most favoured by Chinese tourists, among others. Chiang Rai is laid-back and enriched with cultural gems and natural wonders, such as the White and Blue Temples, as well as Phu Chi Fah.
Trat has become a rising destination for island hoppers, especially for European visitors. German tourists have emerged as a top market. Located in the East of Thailand, Trat boasts being a beach hideaway for those seeking peace of mind, such as Ko Chang and Ko Kut.
Sukhothai is a magnet for those passionate in history, as it was the first capital of the Kingdom and the Sukhothai Historical Park is acclaimed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This destination has become increasingly popular with French tourists.
Nong Khai is popular with Laotians and foreign tourists for its bordering city and leads to the CLMVT route. Nearby is Udon Thani, which boasts the Ban Chiang Archaeological Site, which was registered as a World Heritage Site in 1992.
Recommended Emerging Destinations
Some examples of emerging destinations on the rise in the future are:
Mae Hong Son: This mist-shrouded city will gradually gain popularity from various markets, including Europe, Asia, and America, for its cool weather and tranquility. It is distinctive with a cultural blend between the Tai Yai ethnic group and Thai people as well as a community-based tourism experience.
Lampang is a slow-life city that can still retain its charm through the fast-pacing world. This is where a horse cart is still used in Thailand. Even though it is a small town, there is splendid architecture and a number of temples influenced by Lanna, Chinese, and Burmese to visitors.
Trang: It is located in the South and best fits those who look for a ‘foodie haven’, a quite beach getaway and marine adventure. There are a number of nice islands, such as Ko Muk and Tham Morakot or the Emerald Cave.
TAT has taken action on the sustainability issue in the tourism industry since the TTM+ last year and has tried as best as it can to reduce using bottles and plastic bags in its various events.
Apart from TTM+ 2019, TAT has another growing trade mart, the Thailand Golf Travel Mart (TGTM) 2019, which will be held for the fifth time in August. The venue to host the event rotates every year. This year, Chiang Mai has been selected, and the event is expected to see over 350 participants.
Finally, a talk entitled ‘Making the World A Better Place Through Travel, Local Food, Local Wisdom’, which was hosted by celebrity chef Chef Van from The DAG Restaurant in Bangkok, was both informative and entertaining.