Sawasdee kha, ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Thai tourism industry, I would like to welcome all of you to the Thailand Travel Mart Plus 2009. This is the largest B2B event to promote the unique tourist attractions and experiences offered by Thailand and the surrounding countries of the Greater Mekong Sub-region or GMS.
This year, the Thailand Travel Mart Plus has attracted 360 delegate buyers from 51 countries to meet with 405 travel organizations and related service operators from Thailand and the GMS. This is an increase of 18 participating travel organizations and related service operators compared to 2008. This year, we are welcoming delegates from new markets including Argentina (1), Brazil (3), Estonia (1), Mexico (3), Moldova (1), Mozambique (1), Romania (1), South Africa (12) and Turkey (1). We are also delighted that 116 media have come to join us.
During this time, the Thailand Tourism Festival is taking place right next door at Challenger Halls 2 and 3. With an aim to encourage domestic tourism, it is showcasing new tourism products and activities. The Thailand Tourism Festival also features many activities to promote the preservation of Thai culture, traditions and local lifestyles.
Given the challenges the travel sector has faced recently, the Thailand Travel Mart Plus 2009 will play a key role in supporting TAT’s efforts to achieve our target for tourist arrivals this year.
UPDATE ON THAILAND SITUATION AND STATISTICS
I would like to start out by comparing last year’s arrival numbers for visitors to Thailand with this year’s numbers. In 2008, Thailand welcomed around 14.59 million international visitors, which reflected a growth of 0.88 per cent. It is estimated that tourism brought about 15 billion US dollars (exchange rate at 33.66 baht to 1 US dollar) (505 billion baht) into the Kingdom last year. There was a significant increase in arrivals from three regions — the Middle East, which grew by close to 9 per cent, visitors from ASEAN, up 13 per cent; and visitors from Oceania, which increased by around 4.5 per cent.
For 2009, TAT initially projected 14 million visitor arrivals. However, after some recent unfavourable events (political and H1N1 (A)), we are in the process of realigning our marketing strategies and revising our target to ensure it’s realistic in light of current market circumstances. For the first four months of this year, visitor arrivals to Thailand totalled some 3.2 million, down 19 per cent compared to the same period last year. While most markets showed varying rates of decline, we saw an increase of almost 11.5 per cent in arrivals from the Middle East and a 3.6 per cent increase in arrivals from South Asia.
There are three key factors that are contributing to the decline in tourist arrivals in Thailand. They are the global economic downturn, the country’s political situation, and the H1N1 flu situation. I would like to give you TAT’s perspective on each.
As a result of the global economic downturn, the worldwide travel and tourism sector has declined as people have become more cautious about spending on leisure and business travel. To reinforce Thailand’s well-entrenched position as a renowned cost-effective destination, TAT has introduced the “Amazing Thailand Amazing Value” campaign. The government has also implemented many measures to enhance Thailand’s tourist infrastructure and strengthen our country’s unique qualities. I will share more details with you shortly.
The next factor affecting tourism is Thailand’s political situation. The government, under Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, is focused on finding a political solution to bring about national reconciliation. Regardless of internal politics, the uniqueness, variety and quality of our tourist attractions, as well as the hospitality of Thai people, have not changed. Thailand continues to welcome visitors to our country with open arms.
The third and final factor influencing global tourism is the Type A (H1N1) flu. Using the experience gained during the SARS outbreak a few years ago, the Thai government has implemented rapid response measures that have kept this flu in check in our country. Therefore, visitors to Thailand do not need to be concerned about this flu when they travel here.
STRATEGY TO GET PEOPLE BACK TO THAILAND
As you will see as you travel around the Kingdom, everyday life for the Thai people and visitors to Thailand has returned to normal. Given this, I would like to provide you with more details on the strategy in place to encourage visitors to come to Thailand. The framework for our strategy was established by the Minister of Tourism and Sports, His Excellency Mr. Chumpol Silapa-archa. The three-point recovery plan for restoring tourism during 2009 includes:
1. Emergency measures to restore visitor confidence,
2. Policy measures to promote more domestic travel and international visitor arrivals, and
3. Tactical marketing measures which include special campaigns, especially via online marketing.
Tourism is a national priority for Thailand. TAT’s goals to help restore inbound tourism include rebuilding visitor confidence and Thailand’s image as a prime tourist destination, developing new tourist attractions, coming up with creative new activities, increasing quality control for tourist operators, enhancing safety and security, and developing Thai people’s skills to more widely support the tourism sector.
Basically, our strategy is to inform potential visitors that they can have a worry-free vacation while enjoying all the value and charm that Thailand has to offer. Thai people remain warm and smiling, and now is the time to experience all the things visitors love about Thailand.
Our campaigns will focus on major markets where we will work with industry partners to launch special packages, advertise in local media, and organize media and industry trips to Thailand.
MARKETING AND BRAND STRATEGIES FOCUS
Now I would like to share the TAT’s brand and marketing strategy with you. The highly successful “Amazing Thailand” branding highlights our country as a modern, sophisticated and international destination that offers a truly unique tradition, history and culture. Most recently, we initiated the “Amazing Thailand Amazing Value” brand campaign that has helped raise the Kingdom’s brand profile in comparison to other value-oriented destinations.
Our position of offering “Amazing Value” for travel to one of the world’s recognized quality destinations is solidly validated. Futurebrand’s Country Brand Index (CBI) ranked Thailand as the world’s best “brand” in terms of value for money for 2008, the third consecutive year we have won this award. According to the Brand Index: “Famous for its authentic culture, spectacular beaches and noteworthy nightlife, Thailand is also one of the most affordable destinations in the world.” The Brand Index also placed Thailand first globally, tied with New Zealand, in terms of the desire to visit or return to again, fifth in terms of friendly locals, and fifth in terms of authenticity.
The UK Post Office Holiday Costs Barometer, released in January of this year, shows that costs in Thailand for meals, drinks and other tourist items are 41 per cent lower than the lowest-priced destinations in the Euro zone.
In addition CNN International’s research on-line consumer survey (OCS) on travel and tourism saw Thailand being categorized as “the best value for money” for travellers in the Asia-Pacific region. The survey conducted across CNN English websites comprised more than 5,000 questionnaires representing people’s opinions globally.
Given the state of the global economy, being considered as a top value-for-money destination is a tremendous brand attribute for Thailand. TAT will leverage this positioning with a focus on four key markets around the world:
“Ready to Travel” Markets, which includes countries; such as, Scandinavia, India, Russia, Indonesia and some Middle Eastern countries. People in these countries are not really sensitive to Thailand’s political situation, still have considerable purchasing power, and are inclined to travel. Thailand remains one of their most popular destinations.
“Potentially Returning Visitor” Markets, which covers many countries in Europe and the United States. People in these markets have an affinity towards Thailand but are more concerned about the political situation here. They are also more affected by the global economic downturn and so are more careful and value-conscious when it comes to travel spending.
“Concerned Traveller” Markets include China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam and Australia. These markets are more sensitive to Thailand’s political situation and have had varying degrees of economic impact. People in these markets still consider Thailand a convenient tourist destination but have some reservations about returning.
“Highly Sensitive Traveller” Markets including Japan, Korea and Taiwan, where people are the most sensitive to Thailand’s political stability. They have also suffered a deeper economic downturn due to their close ties with the US economy.
For these four key market segments, TAT will develop customized campaigns that ensure understanding of the current situation in Thailand, build confidence levels among potential travellers, reinforce the value for money that Thailand offers, and highlight the many attractions and experiences they can only find in Thailand.
TAT recently launched a comprehensive campaign to help restore Thailand’s tourism industry by boosting confidence among potential visitors. The multi-faceted campaign will focus on the four key markets, reinforcing the tremendous appeal of Thailand’s many attractions while highlighting the many amazing values on offer.
Some highlights of the campaign which will run for the remainder of 2009, include:
Trade shows and road shows to key overseas markets. They will include media briefings and taking Thai tour operators to meet with their counterparts in pre- and post-trade shows. We will also collaborate with Thailand’s Department of Export Promotion and the Board of Investment of Thailand to conduct a Thailand road show. There will be a road show to China in June, and for the rest of the year to Korea, India, Taiwan, Dubai, and Russia.
On-line marketing with a focus on engaging potential visitors through the Internet’s top travel communities and interactive websites. Projects will include real-time CCTV streams from Thailand’s top tourist attractions and building connections with potential visitors through social media, online events, and e-newsletters.
Reinforcing our “Amazing Thailand Amazing Value” proposition through the “Thailand Super Deal” page at the TAT website featuring special offers, supported by promotion through traditional forms of media.
Promoting attractions such as the Amazing Thailand Grand Sale 2009, which runs from June through August. This year, it is bigger and better than ever, with more than 2,000 stores nationwide selling quality goods including Thai and international brands, as well as a variety of local products, at discounts of 10-80 per cent, plus special offers from other services including spas, hotels, restaurants. Shoppers will also have the opportunity to win prizes valued at 10 million Baht plus other gifts from each store displaying the “Amazing Thailand Grand Sale” sign.
Although we are now focused on overcoming the challenges that face Thailand’s tourism sector, the future remains very promising. Visitors from all over the globe come to Thailand attracted by our extremely high-quality products, excellent service standards, wonderful natural attractions — and, of course, the warmth and traditional hospitality of the Thai people and one of the world’s truly unique cultures. These attributes will always be the essence of Thailand.
Already an outstanding travel destination, Thailand will only become more appealing as we continue to develop our tourism products further. We will focus on building Thailand’s lead in areas; such as, medical tourism as well as developing innovative travel products and experiences in areas like wellness tourism, Thainess tourism including ecotour programmes, social tourism, cultural and historical travel.
With 217 golf courses in Thailand, golf tourism will be a particular priority for bringing in Asian visitors, who can enjoy exceptional value and an unmatched golfing experience.
Another trend we plan to address, especially of interest to visitors from Europe and Taiwan, is cycling tours to scenic and relaxing destinations in Thailand’s provinces. Cycling tours let visitors gain new insights into Thailand, really getting to know the people. A growing number of professional cycling tour agents offer itineraries for visitors to enjoy the forests and mountains of the North, the traditional agricultural and historical sights of Thailand’s Central Plains, or the magnificent beaches and jungles of the South.
In order to tap the weekend break for short-haul countries, TAT also developed 72-hour tourism. We have introduced the 72-hours travel programme booklets to several provinces including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Pattaya. Our most recent programme booklet in the series is 72 hours in Hua Hin.
In addition, we also have programmes for weddings and honeymoons, as well as international conferences.
With comprehensive products and travel experiences that we continue to offer, Thailand will remain a leading destination of choice for travellers of all types.
We would also like to complement Emirates Airline which has just introduced its double-decker A380 on its Bangkok route with a daily service from Dubai effective 1 June 2009. We anticipate this will generate many travellers to Thailand and the GMS countries.
OTHER UPDATES & UPCOMING EVENTS
In addition to incentives to boost tourism; such as, reduced landing charges for aircraft and reduced entry fees for national parks, we continue to enhance Thailand’s tourism products. For example, on 1 June, the “Package Tour for Transfer Passengers” initiative was introduced. Transfer passengers making a stopover of 6 to 12 hours at Suvarnabhumi International Airport can take short tours of Bangkok and the surrounding area.
For example, they can take a boat ride to the Thonburi canals to discover a part of Bangkok that remains the “Venice of the East” or tour the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha, Thailand’s most superb royal temple with some of the finest murals in Asia. Tired travellers can relax with the Thai traditional massage package, followed by a Thai herbal hot compress massage and aromatherapy full body oil massage. Or they can take a tour programme to The Erawan, the three-headed elephant that is the vehicle of the Hindu God Indra. The Erawan Museum houses a collection of antiques.
After sampling the unique attractions offered in the Bangkok area, we are confident that these visitors will want to come back here for a longer stay in the future.
Another new development that will make it easier to get from Suvarnabhumi International Airport into central Bangkok is the Airport Rail Link. The high-speed service is now undergoing trials for its launch in December. With the 28-kilometre rail link, an express train will take you from the airport to the City Airport Terminal in about 15 minutes, where you can get right onto the MRT or jump into a taxi to complete your journey.
Now let me tell you about some of the great international events that are in store for you in Thailand during the rest of 2009.
World Comedy Film Festival
What can be more appropriate for the Land of Smiles than the World Comedy Film Festival 2009? The first comedy film festival in Asia, it will run from 10-16 June. It will feature fifty films, with 20 from Asian countries, 20 from Europe, America and Africa, and ten Thai classic and contemporary comedy films. There is also an international standup comedy show on 11 June, with renowned comedians from around the globe. Some of the celebrities confirmed to attend the festival include Richard Ng Man Tat from Hong Kong; Eric Roberts, Keith David, Ari Gold and Tina Kim from the United States; and Justin Melvey, Dan Ilic and Gyton Grantley from Australia.
4th Laguna Phuket International Marathon
This event will take place on 14 June, 2009. It features a full marathon, half marathon, 10-kilometre Run, 5-kilometre walk, and a 2-kilometre Kids Run. Registration is now open.
French Weddings in Chiang Mai
Former Miss France 2002, Ms. Sylvie Tellier will be bringing 15 French couples to Thailand to marry in the traditional Thai Lanna style at the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi Hotel in Chiang Mai during June 18th to 20th. For their honeymoons, the newlyweds will explore the green and serene mountains surrounding Chiang Mai. This is the second French wedding in Thailand — the first took place in Bangkok’s Rose Garden in 2008.
4th International Candle Sculpture Exhibition in Ubon Ratchathani (July)
Throughout July, TAT will host the International Candle Sculpture Exhibition at the annual Buddhist Lent Candle Festival in Ubon Ratchathani province. The exhibition aims to conserve and promote the art of carving sculptures out of wax candles as well as promote tourism in the Northeastern region during the time of the Buddhist Lent Festival.
Many artists will create and present their own creative wax sculptures under the theme of “World of Candles and Wax”. Thai and foreign craftsmen from 10 different countries will participate in this exhibition including Hungary, Romania, Indonesia, Chile, Malaysia, Bulgaria, Belarus, China, Japan, and Thailand.
The exhibition will also build relationships between Thai and international artisans through creative ventures, such as the “Visit Artists in Nine Workshops”, which will take place at various temples and communities about one month before the international exhibition.
Liverpool Football Club Friendly Match
Red fever strikes this July when the Liverpool Football Club visits Thailand to play a friendly match against the Thai national team. Liverpool kicks off the Asian portion of its summer friendlies right here in Bangkok on 22 July. They will then go on to Singapore.
This follows a visit from executives of Northern Ireland’s Glentoran Football Club, who are in Thailand this month to plan a 10-day tour that will take place in June 2010. Glentoran will hold three exhibition matches against Thai football teams.
1st Asian Martial Art Games 2009
The Olympic Council of Asia has chosen Thailand to host the 1st Asian Martial Art Games 2009, which will be held between August 1st to 9th. Approximately 2,500 athletes from 45 countries will compete in nine different sports over the 9-day period, including karatedo, kickboxing, muai, wushu and kungfu, jujitsu, pencak silat, judo, taekwondo, and kurash.
Australian Society of Travel Writers
Up to 200 of Australia’s leading travel writers will visit Thailand on 21-23 August for their annual general meeting. It is expected to be the largest off-shore event for the Society since its inception in 1975. In addition to the 3-day annual general meeting, there will be a series of six tours up to seven days long.
Visit by Miss Poland 2009 Contestants
During the first two weeks of October 2009, 24 beautiful ladies from different cities in Poland will visit Pattaya and Phuket. They will take part in the “Polonia Preparation Camp,” enjoying seaside activities that will be shown during the Miss Poland television pageant on 24 October 2009. Almost 28,000 Polish tourists visited Thailand in 2008, an increase of some 30 per cent over the year before.
PTT Thailand Open 2009
During 26 September to 4 October, Thailand will welcome the ATP’s top players to Bangkok for the PTT Thailand Open 2009. This year, Rafael Nadal, the world’s number one-ranked tennis player is confirmed to participate, as is Thailand Open 2008 Champion, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. For Nadal, he and seven of his best friends will also enjoy a relaxing holiday in beautiful Krabi province.
Loi Krathong – Festival of Lights
Loi Krathong, or the Festival of Lights, takes place on 2 November. Under the full moon of the twelfth lunar month, people all over Thailand release ornately-decorated banana leaf floats into rivers and waterways that reflect the soft light of thousands of candles. Loi Krathong is one of the Kingdom’s oldest and best-preserved traditions that always enchants visitors.
Phuket King’s Cup Regatta
Thailand is becoming a major centre of marine tourism including yachting, cruises, and water sports events. This December, for the 23rd year, Thailand will host “The Phuket King’s Cup Regatta”, Asia’s biggest and most popular sailing event from 28 November to 5 December. Thailand is also home to the Pattaya Regatta in May, Samui Regatta in June, and Hua Hin Regatta in July.
3rd Thailand International Balloon Festival 2009
“Come into the Blue in Pattaya” at the 3rd Thailand International Balloon Festival, which will take place between 10 and 13 December 2009. More than 60 hot-air balloons from countries from around the world including the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, South Africa, Croatia and Malaysia will take part in this spectacular event.
And to wrap up the year:
With exciting activities taking place from Bangkok to beachfronts, Thailand is the perfect place to ring in the New Year. TAT will be arranging special Countdown promotions that we will announce towards the end of the year.
In summary, Thailand is renowned as a friendly country with a gentle culture that welcomes visitors warmly. We take great pride in our hospitality and the culture and characteristics that make us uniquely Thai. From cool mountains to idyllic beaches, and modern cities to ancient wonders, we are always ready to share what we have with the world.
I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all of you for being here. Please let your readers and viewers know that Amazing Thailand is even better with the Amazing Values now on offer. And, as always, we’re ready to welcome everybody with a big smile.
Thank you and sawasdee kha.