Thailand: presenting new and exciting travel format – Thainess

Alina Khorosheva, 04.08.2014 17:41
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As is demonstrated time and again throughout the world, only the countries with highly-developed travel industries and top inbound tourist flow indicators have the privilege of actively fostering ecotourism. Vivid and bright Thailand, which has been gaining a lot of traction popularity-wise lately, is definitely among these countries. Thailand Travel Mart (TTM+), one of the largest travel exhibitions in Asia that took place in Bangkok on June 4-6, unveiled Thainess (“the Thai way of life”) to travel business representatives from the world’s top tourist destinations.

Traditionally, TTM+ was split into two parts – the actual business event B2B and the travel festival B2C. The latter featured crafts, folk traditions, cuisine of Thailand and Southeast Asia, which provided a welcome respite from the hard work for the participants and guests, who strolled down the lane of colorful little shops with tasty-smelling and authentic goods… In other words, they got the opportunity to experience a lively and merry celebration. Each of the several stages of the festival was continuously hosting contests, musical performances, and was giving out prizes.

The other part of the exhibition center, conversely, was very quiet, and people there were very focused. All of the exhibition’s participants were divided into 9 categories: hotels and resorts, travel companies, entertainment events, transport companies, golf-centers, associations, national tourist offices, travel business representatives and other companies that offer tourist services and products.

TTM+: numbers, information, commentary

This year, in addition to the usual participants representing European, US and Australian markets, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) paid special attention to the countries of the CIS, Eastern Europe, Near East, South America and South Africa. The exhibition featured 800 travel companies – both buyers and sellers.

About 176 buyers (51%) were participating in the TTM for their first time. The most number of international guests came from China (10.49%), the UK (9.44%), Australia and India (20% each). As for sellers, representatives of 399 organizations took part in the event, which is 1.27% more than in the previous year. The majority of sellers came from the southern part of Thailand and Bangkok (38.48% and 34.18% respectively).

TTM+ featured 16 companies representing Russia and the CIS at IMPACT Exhibition Center. They included companies from Khabarovsk – AMUR-VOYAGE, CLASSIC TRAVEL CO, CONTINENTAL CO., EAST AIR SERVICE and FAR EASTERN EXPRESS TRAVEL CO LTD, from Vladivostok – FIFTH OCEAN, ORION TOUR LLC, SOUZ TOUR, and from Moscow – INTERUNION, Prestige tour and T&A.

A few dozen exciting reports were presented during the buyers and sellers forum, all of which contained interesting ideas for tourism practice. During the second day of the exhibition, a few press-conferences and interviews were organized for individual journalists from various countries.

Russian journalists had the opportunity to meet with Juthaporn Rerngronasa, CEO for International Marketing at Tourism Authority of Thailand in Europe, Africa, Middle East & America.

According to her, despite political disturbances causing Thailand’s global inbound tourist flow to drop 5.9% during this year’s first five months, the number of Russian tourists at the kingdom’s resorts, conversely, grew 12%. The biggest decrease was among Asian tourists.

Juthaporn Rerngronasa, answering TRN’s question, said that by the end of 2014 the total number of Thailand’s inbound tourists is expected to be almost the same as last year, which is about 25-26 million people. Experts also predict a rise in the Russian tourist flow to Thailand – up to 10%.

Last year Thailand was visited by 1.7 million Russians. Ms Rerngronasa says that by the end of 2014 the number of Russian tourists will reach 1.9 million people. “These trends are another testament of Russians’ love for Thailand,” she said.

According to the CEO, during the summer of 2014 Thailand will host a media tour for about 1,000 journalists from all over the world. The main purpose of this global event is to provide relevant information of the political and economic situation in the country and to show the global community that it is still safe and enjoyable to have a holiday in Thailand.

TAT Governor Thawatchai Arunyik said at the main press-conference of the exhibition that the current political crisis has negatively affected the SME segment.

“Our task is to get these enterprises up and running again while also helping them get over the losses that they have incurred. Right now we are hard at work developing an action strategy that would help us tackle this problem efficiently. TTM+ will serve as a great instrument for us to achieve the goals that we have set in order to stabilize the market,” said TAT’s chief executive.

By the way, Russian and other international groups that were attending the exhibition said that they did not perceive any signs of the recent Thai military coup, not even in the capital. It was actually quite the contrary – soldiers in uniform were very few and far between, and when they did appear, there was always a bunch of tourists eager to take a photo.

The majority of Thailand Travel Mart participants spoke highly of the event. The buyers were content with the exhibition and said that it proved to be very useful, helping them to find new niche products and services that will let their companies gain the competitive edge in a rapidly changing market.

The exit poll shows that the majority of TTM+ buyers gave the exhibition a score of 4.36 out of 5. Also, the participants were able to find products and services that fitted the needs of their markets (the average score of 4.26). On the whole, 75.7% of buyers said that they achieved the main objective of their visit to the exhibition.

Get excited about Thainess

One of the main topics that dominated most of the reports at TTM+ was the concept of Thainess, which TRN has already reported on earlier.

The Kingdom of Thailand has always fascinated travelers with its warm welcome, which can be fully credited to the local people, who are the main draw of the country. This even became the subject of a new slogan for Thainess – “Amazing Thailand. It begins with the people.” This idea permeates every aspect of Thai life – culture, arts, cuisine, communication and religion.

The campaign aims to give each tourist an opportunity to choose some activity that suits him or her and experience the genuine Thai way of life.

To the south-west of Chiang Mai Province there is an elephant farm that is quite renowned in Thailand – Patara. Here guests have the unique opportunity to become elephant owners for a day. Tourists will learn to feed elephants, take care of them, bathe and clean them in the river, ride on their neck, communicate with them and give them voice commands. Elephants form an integral part of Thai culture and way of life. They are a traditional symbol of the royal family, and an important element of the Buddhist arts and architecture.

By the way, our group, despite the busy schedule of our business trip, was able to have a brief taste of the charming beauty of Thai nature. We went on a night boat trip, which is already quite famous among Europeans, down the Mae Klong River near Amphawa. Each group member was left with a deluge of unforgettable emotions. We have never seen “New Year trees” hanging over a river, all of them decorated from top to bottom with small lights – hundreds of twinkling fireflies. A truly marvelous sight!

The new program promotes not only the best natural
sights and national parks of the kingdom, but also various ecological itineraries, including agritourism. The latter two options let tourists take part in, for instance, cooking old Thai dishes and growing rice in a local village, in wedding rites, in making national jewelry and in Muay Thai (Thai boxing) classes.

The country’s travel authorities are positive that this kind of tourism will suit all tourists who come to the country – both middle-class and wealthy travelers. However, tour operators that service Thailand need to re-format their approach to creating the luxury-segment tourism product. This will attract tourists with high income levels to the country, said international tourism expert, travel entrepreneur and TV host Daniel Fraser during the exhibition.

According to the expert, rich people look for thrill and excitement, since they are too accustomed to luxury for it to evoke any genuine emotions.

“Thailand is a unique country. It offers its guests a combination of simple and luxurious. The usual formula of a luxury holiday is that the tourist gets as much comfort and service as he paid for, which leads to basically the same product being offered throughout the world. The new approach is based on a different vision. The guest gets the maximum amount of thrill and emotions, with money taking a back seat to fun. It all still depends on the guest’s wishes, of course, but the main focus is getting to know the Thai way of life and then getting lost in it,” said the expert.

Daniel Fraser also emphasized that the new “Thai luxury” would also benefit the local economic systems.

“There are no more than five regions in Thailand that are actively visited by tourists. We can add four regions to this list if we consider repeat tourists, but that is it. A huge part of the country remains untapped tourism-wise,” he added.

Another forum participant, international expert on the issues of agritourism and representative of Community Based Tourism ( Peter Richards, said that currently there are more than 50 programs in Thailand that let tourists experience the rhythm and nature of local life.

“Thai people are eager to share the objects of their pride with tourists. Agritourism in Thailand stands on four pillars – living, learning, caring and sharing,” he added.

The expert spoke about travel companies that were working on creating and implementing Thainess programs, and hence could act as reliable partners for tour operators from all over the world.

“There are already quite a large number of “green” hotels in Thailand, which offer guests these exciting programs. However, travel companies are still largely unaware of the possibilities offered by the new format of “friendly” travel, as we call it,” said Peter Richards.

While assessing the projects presented at the exhibition and the impression that they produced on the Russian travel companies, International Marketing CEO at TAT Juthaporn Rerngronasa said that the target consumers of ecotourism and agritourism are repeat tourists. The reason for that is that establishing the necessary relations between Thailand’s destination management companies that promote Thainess and Russian tour operators that are accustomed to the “standard” Thai tourism product will take at least two years.

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