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Resilient ThailandJuly 16, 2007 By: Mark Rogers Travel Agent
Thailand looks to new markets and multi-country marketing
was buffeted by the tsunami in 2004, and rocked by political unrest in recent
months. In June, while attending Thai Travel Mart in
Travel Agent heard hoteliers express
the opinion that
is coming off a tough year for tourism.
The figures tell another story:
international visitors in 2006, a 20.01 percent increase over the previous
accounted for 640,000 of these arrivals, an increase of 9.43 percent. According
to Phorsuri Mancharn, Tourism Authority of Thailand's governor,
seeking to boost the total number of international visitors to 14.8 million in
A recent survey conducted by Visa International Asia Pacific
and the Pacific Asia Travel Association of 5,000 international travelers from
ten markets around the world found 52 percent considering Asia as their next
travel destination, a nine percent increase over last year's survey. The survey
number-one preferred destination, followed by
"I've noticed that recent political events in
reduced the number of corporate visitors, but not leisure; I would have thought
it would be the other way around," says Jagan Lacsher, director of sales
and distribution for the popular Novotel Bangkok on
the mind that they are not going to have their vacation plans disrupted by
political unrest." In Lascher's eyes,
tourism market for the future.
has recovered from the tsunami and now has a warning system in place throughout
resort areas," says G.W. "Sandy" Ferguson, president of Asia
Desk, Ltd. "Actually, it was
least by the tsunami but covered the most. What reporter do you know who would
want to spend his time in Banda Ache,
as compared to an untouched five-star hotel in Phuket?"
image will be improved when we have an elected government in December,"
says Sethapon Chindanon, regional director, the
Thailand. "I want travel agents to understand that even though we had a
coup, it was a non-violent one.
is a safe destination."
is in the process of reinventing itself as a cultural destination, a process
started three years ago—before that it was primarily a shopping, nightlife and
beach destination," says Hpone Thant, director of Myanmar-based South Wind
Travels & Tours Co., Ltd.
In months to come, look for
attract the high-end visitor. "Our tourists like adventure during the day
and luxury at night," says Chindanon. "In other words, maybe they'll
ride atop an elephant along a jungle trail, and then return to their hotel to
relax in a spa or have a fine meal." Chindanon adds that the country needs
more four- and five-star hotels.
"In Bangkok, food and beverage is cutting edge,
shopping is international quality and traffic is improved," says Deepak Ohri,
CEO of Lebua Hotels & Resorts Co., Ltd. "In fact, everything is
improving, which is contributing to Bangkok's appeal."
target markets include educational tourism, volunteer tourism, alumni groups,
and special interest travel focusing on the country's culture and history.
"These are tourists who are less interested in sightseeing—they're more
interested in 'life-seeing,'" says Chindanon.
"Most of my clients hit
beach destination, plus Siem Reap in
for Angkor Wat," says Karin Hansen,
travel expert, Frosch Travel. Hansen adds that she's getting increased interest
in Thai cooking classes, and the beach destination of Hua Hin is gaining in
popularity. Hua Hin is a three-hour drive from
offering upscale getaways for city dwellers, much like the
Medical tourism was getting some buzz at the Thai Travel
Mart. A recent Research and Markets report, "Opportunities in Thailand
Tourism Industry (2007-2009)," notes that
healthcare tourism, which entails providing visitors with private healthcare
It is expected that tourist arrivals for the purpose of
medical treatment will reach two million by 2010. September 27-30, at
will provide a platform for Proud Asia 2007, the first international trade
exhibition and conference on the medical tourism, spa and wellness industries.
The event is expected to attract 15,000 visitors and 300 trade exhibitors from
over 10 countries.
Thai Airways is doing its part to attract visitors. The
carrier's "Discover Thailand Fares 2007," offers a pass that entitles
travelers to fly economy class to three cities within
$169, within a three-month period. Additional flight coupons are available, up
to a maximum of eight coupons. All travel must be completed by December 31 and
only in conjunction with international travel to, from or via
Qualifying international flights may be via any carrier. Thai Airways
International and Air
have also teamed to offer packages combining Beijing Olympics 2008 trips with a
pre-or post-Bangkok visit. Both airlines are offering special fares out of a
variety of cities, including
information, visit www.thaiairways.com
One Country, Four Regions
Thais generally divide it into four regions, each with its own distinct ethnic
peoples speaking their own dialect and observing their own customs.
is a modern country now—not like when I grew up there in the `60s or ran a DMC
there in the `80s," says Asia Desk's
"It's becoming much like the
food outlets in the big cities. Now, you have to get out in the boonies to get
a real experience."
Southern Thailand has a peninsula, with the
on one side and the
Popular seaside destinations include Samui, Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi, known
for the Phi Phi islands.
The Central region is largely delta country, dominated by
for travelers, popular destinations throughout the region include Ayutthaya,
the former capital of Thailand and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site;
Kanchanaburi, site of the historic Bridge on the River Kwai; and the upscale
seaside resort area, Hua Hin.
Northeastern Thailand is a vast plateau, flanked by the
and encompassing part of the Golden Triangle. World Heritage Sites include Ban
Chiang in Udon Thani, where the world's oldest Bronze Age civilization
flourished some 5,600 years ago, and
The North is cool and mountainous. Stand outs include the
cities of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, and Sukhothai, site of the first
independent Thai kingdom and a UNESCO World Heritage historic town.
is considered the gateway to Indochina countries, such as
operators are increasingly offering
"In the past, we promoted
Chindanon. "Now we're happy to join forces with other Indochina countries
to form another tourism hub in
To this end,
is promoting the range of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in
"We can't compete alone against the number of sites in mainland
adds Chindanon. "But in combination we can offer an impressive amount of
In addition to UNESCO World Heritage Sites in
Ha Long Bay, Hoi, and My Son Sanctuary in
and the town of
"We've seen an increase in combining
surrounding countries, especially
sales manager for Asia Transpacific Journeys. "(Our travelers) also seem
to be traveling throughout the year now rather than during the peak travel
months of November through January." Kareus has some caveats: "I'd
like to see better promotion of lesser-known areas in the country with good
potential for tourism, as well as better infrastructure to facilitate easier
overland border crossings with
has always been a strong destination for us," says Jerry Chang, president
of Pacific Holidays. "There have been a couple of hiccups—the tsunami and
the coup—but business always comes right back." Chang gives
marks for its diverse offerings—the mountains in the north, the island and
beaches, the history and culture of its ruins and temples. Pacific Delight has
a number of itineraries that combine
including a popular 15-day Thailand Delights program with a three-day Angkor
"We used to sell
by itself or combined with
adds Chang. "In 2007 we introduced a combined Japan/Thailand
"We have not seen any meaningful reduction in business
as a result of recent events," says Rosalyn Gershell, senior vice
president, sales and marketing, Pacific Delight Tours. "After
remains the number-one destination for us—both in combination with
as a destination on its own." Among its programs, Pacific Delight has a
its tours that end in Hong Kong, and a 15-day
and Cambodia SuperValue program.
"We feel that while Thailand has indeed recovered from
the setbacks posed by the recent events, we feel that the tourism sector has
not yet fully come all the way back," says Evan Chan, director of Ritz
Tours. "The good news is that all signs show this sector to be speeding on
its way to full recovery." Ritz Tours offers Thailand extensions as an
option on all of its Asia programs. The company is continuing to develop new
offerings in combination with other Asian destinations, such as its new 15-day
Tantalizing Thailand tour. According to Chan, the company plans to combine
Thailand with Indochina, China, and Japan.