Interview With Santchai Euachongprasit

This year there’s a new wrinkle to the 7th Thailand Travel Mart + 2008, which is in progress at Bangkok’s IMPACT Exhibition Centre. In past years the mart concentrated on promoting the countries of the Mekong River Sub-RegionThailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar. The “+” in this year’s name for the mart refers to the addition of Malaysia and Indonesia in a new marketing move they’re calling “The Greater Mekong Sub-Region and Indonesia-Malaysia –Thailand Growth Triangle.” The acronym for the unwieldy name is IMTGT. Although specific packages haven’t been announced, travel agents can expect to see short, medium and long stay packages being developed that promote travel to all three countries.

Santchai Euachongprasit

Santchai Euachongprasit

I sat down with Santchai Euachongprasit, deputy governor for international marketing, Tourism Authority of Thailand, to get his outlook on what’s ahead for Thailand tourism.

“The U.S. market is very stable for us,” says Euachongprasit. “Past crises in Thailand haven’t affected travel from the U.S. Americans understand the principles of protest.” Euachongprasit was referring to such incidents as the coup in 2006 and political unrest in South Thailand.

He typified the American market as primarily a senior market that is drawn to Thailand for its culture and history. “We have to maintain this market, especially the high-end of it,” he says. Euachongprasit points to the up-market seaside resort area of Hua Hin, which is only a three-hour drive from Bangkok, as an especially fruitful area for promotion. He also notes medical tourism as being a potential growth market.

Although there’s fierce competition in Asia to capture the medical tourism market, with Thailand, Singapore and India in the forefront, Euachongprasit confidently states that Thailand is the current leader in the field. Thailand is estimating that by the end of 2008 the country will see a total of 1.45 million people visiting Thailand for medical treatment, accounting for a generated income of well over a billion dollars. Euachongprasit notes that the country’s medical technology, the hospitality of the Thai people, and the appeal of its tourism product accounts for Thailand’s strength in the field.

Euachongprasit laid out some of the details for a new conference center in Chiang Mai that is ramping up to begin construction in six months. The center has a $60 million construction budget and will have 500 exhibition booths and the capacity to handle 3,000 people. The projected date of completion is summer of 2010.

Euachongprasit also discussed the new airport link connecting Suvarnabhumi InternationalAirport to downtown Thailand. Making the trip by taxi currently takes about 40 minutes, which is an unreliable figure given Bangkok’s unpredictable traffic. The new rail link, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year, will get visitors into the city in 15-20 minutes.