Friday, October 12, 2012

As rivals gain, Thai tourism cries out for distinct image

 12 Oct, 2012
Bangkok Post

Thailand should have a clear campaign to promote tourism and distinguish itself from neighbouring countries, says the Association of Thai Tourism Marketing (ATTM).

President Mingkwan Metmowlee said Indonesia and Cambodia are gaining popularity with European travellers.

The governments of both countries have supported the tourism industry, and the private sector also cooperates with state policies.

At present, the average package tour in Indonesia is attractive at 700-800 (27,800 to 31,700 baht) for 12 days and nine nights compared with 1,200 in Thailand. Cambodia features untamed nature and an unseen culture.

Though Thailand is a popular hospitality destination for Westerners, it lacks cooperation between tourism groups.

Consequently, Thailand must differentiate itself from the others to remain competitive. For example, if it wants to boost the honeymoon market, it should think about what makes its honeymoon product different.
PR and marketing campaigns are not enough to lure tourists; Thailand needs unique products and specific promotions for each destination.

For instance, Trang has a famous underwater wedding ceremony. But when newlywed couples want to honeymoon, they often think about the Maldives and its popular seaside resorts.

Ms Mingkwan said the association admires the hard work put in by the Thailand Authority of Thailand (TAT), but the country's positioning is unclear. To compete with Myanmar, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia, the TAT has to seriously promote new destinations such as Koh Kut and Koh Lao Ya to show that Thailand still has more beautiful and pristine beaches.

"We have to pay attention to product development and education for SMEs and local people on tourism and persuade them to value nature," said Ms Mingkwan. "This is a step towards sustainable tourism."

For Europe, she said the TAT and the airlines should join hands to do marketing campaigns, introduce new destinations and select quality tourists. The euro crisis has affected spending, but Thailand is still attractive for many travellers.

Another problem is that secondary provinces are too small to draw foreign tourists except for some popular locations like Pai in Mae Hong Son and Chiang Khan in Loei.

Ms Mingkwan said Thailand ranks third among European tourists Asian destinations, after China and Vietnam.

Next year, the ATTM sees potential for growth in US tourists as the economy turns around. But tour operators may have to offer a combined package tour with nearby countries such as Cambodia and Vietnam.

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