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-Region – Thailand, 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
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
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
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.