Asian Destinations Seek Funding and Fresh Approaches to Attracting Visitors

As travel trends downward, Asian countries seek fresh ways to attract visitors.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand has anticipated that the number of tourists visiting Thailand in 2009 will drop to 14 million (from 16 million in 2008) due to the global economic slowdown. Thailand’s Sports and Tourism Ministry is asking for a one billion baht ($28,552,000) special budget from Thailand’s Cabinet to promote tourism. Part of the fund would go to mounting a publicity campaign to restore the country’s image, which was badly damaged by the closure of the Suvarhabhumi and Don Meuang airports late last year due to protests by the People’s Alliance for Democracy protesters. In addition, another five billion baht $142,931,000) will be sought from the Cabinet to assist small and medium-sized tour operators facing financial problems as a result of economic slowdown.

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran is on record as saying Singapore will pump $90 million into the tourism industry, which Iswaran says is heading for a difficult year. Some experts are predicting a drop of 11 percent in arrivals to Singapore in 2009. The promotional plan is called “BOOST” (Building on Opportunities to Strengthen Tourism). A key feature of the plan is to market Singapore aggressively to countries in the region, as the downturn prompts travelers to vacation closer to home. Singapore will also make efforts to attract major events, such as last year’s Singapore Formula One night race.

Malaysia’s Tourism Ministry has set up a special committee to approach Malaysia Airlines and low-cost carrier AirAsia with initiatives to increase flights and boost tourism. The committee will assist airlines' efforts to resume flights that were discontinued, such as Malaysia Airlines direct flights on the London-Langkawi, London-Penang route and Bangkok-Langkawi routes that were halted a few years ago.

Malaysia could be seen as taking a proactive approach, since the country actually saw a rise in arrivals to 22 million, a 5.1 percent increase over 2007."

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