Thailand Travel Mart Plus (TTM+) 2011
Plus Amazing Gateway to The Greater Mekong Sub-region
Thailand Media Briefing
By Mr Suraphon Svetasreni
Sawasdee khrap and good afternoon members of the media, ladies and gentlemen.
Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand
9 June 2011
Welcome to Amazing Thailand and the Thailand Travel Mart Plus 2011.
Thank you very much for being with us today and for granting us the opportunity to share with you some new and interesting perspectives and insights on Thailand and the Thai travel and tourism industry.
This year, it gives us great pleasure to warmly welcome to TTM Plus a total of more than 1,000 participants, including 150 members of the media, from 30 countries around the world.
The 368 seller organisations participating this year include 78 agencies who are first-time sellers at this event. The exhibition halls feature 401 booths classified into 10 main categories. This year, we have added an exciting new category – “Chiang Mai Creative City”.
They will meet with 335 buyers from 54 countries which include 120 first-time buyers. This year, we have paid particular attention to the East European markets and the Baltic States, South America, the Middle East and South Africa markets. We are now expanding our marketing efforts globally.
This reflects our strategy to balance existing markets where Thailand is well-established with new markets that offer growth opportunities. Existing markets; such as, Western Europe, the United States and many of our neighbours in the ASEAN region are familiar with Thailand and generate a high number of repeat visitors. We are balancing these existing markets with equal emphasis on new markets. This includes the RICHI group of countries, which are Russia, India, China, and Indonesia.
We are delighted that TTM Plus remains a valuable source of business for Buyers, and Thailand is a newsworthy country for the media.
Thai Tourism Performance
In spite of travel industry jitters, 2010 turned out to be an excellent year for Thai tourism, surpassing all expectations.
Thanks to a highly-focused global marketing effort by TAT and excellent cooperation from all of Thailand’s partners in tourism in the public and private sectors, both at home and overseas, Thai tourism saw a rapid recovery. We ended up with a total of 15.9 million visitors in 2010, a 12.6 per cent increase over the previous year.
This positive trend has continued into 2011, with growth of over 10 per cent every month. From January to May 2011, international visitor arrivals to Thailand reached 8.2 million, up 24.4 per cent compared to the same period of 2010.
TAT expects this consistent growth will continue for the rest of 2011. Given that there are no further global or local crises, there is a tendency that we will be able to reach 16.8 million international visitors who will generate around 642 billion Baht, or 21.3 billion US dollars, in tourism income.
TAT is also increasing our focus on encouraging domestic tourism. We estimate 91 million domestic trips by the end of 2011, generating income expected to reach 432 billion Baht, or 14.3 billion US dollars.
In an environment where constant change and uncertainty are the norm, domestic tourism plays an increasingly important role in offsetting the impact of external factors and variables that cannot be influenced or controlled, and ensures the long-term sustainability of the Thai tourism sector.
Domestic tourism functions as a robust and sustainable alternative for when there is a shortfall in international visitors. We currently promote domestic tourism as a part of everyday life for Thais and Thailand residents. Domestic tourism also plays another vital role in steering Thailand towards a greener future. We are highlighting a new value for domestic travellers, encouraging Thais to "Travel with a New Heart for a Sustainable Thailand." We want the Thai people to explore their homeland with family and friends, enjoying all that it offers while learning more about the Kingdom and each other. TAT is extending this approach by promoting Family and Youth Tourism, cultivating a new generation of responsible travellers.
Thailand Going Green?
According to the latest MasterCard Worldwide Index of Global Destination Cities, Thailand currently ranks as the third most popular destination in the world and is first among Asian cities.
With Thailand’s continued success in attracting visitors to the country year after year, one of the questions asked of TAT most frequently is – Given the significant number of visitor arrivals, is it at all conceivable for Thailand to be a Green destination? … And what is Thailand doing to make the country more environmentally-friendly?
Thailand Going Green – The Dawn of a New Era
As in many developed and developing economies around the world, Thailand feels the pressure from socially and environmentally responsible consumers, as well as international visitors and travellers, to address environmental issues and adopt green Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategies.
Government agencies have become more involved and private industry more active in making Thailand include environmental protection in their development strategies; such as:
- Thailand's Board of Investment or BOI gives maximum incentives, including tax breaks, stream-lined customs procedures and licensing, to green companies that invest in Thailand.
- The past decade has seen Bangkok’s environment improve significantly. Natural-gas powered buses have replaced diesel buses, the electric skytrain quietly zips people around above the traffic, and tree planting programmes have also literally greened the city.
- The three Rs - reduce, reuse, recycle - are now commonly known. The Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) has run several campaigns in the past decade to promote recycling, and the public has grown more aware with each one.
The concept of green tourism has taken root in Thailand and is gaining momentum. Given that much of Thailand’s destination appeal is based on natural attractions – from the verdant forested mountains of the picturesque North to exotic tropical islands, emerald seas and white sandy beaches of the South – TAT has long been an advocate of sustainable tourism.
We recognize that it is important to stress the need for tourism stakeholders; such as, our travel partners, tour operators, local communities - and even tourists themselves - to be environmentally conscious. We are in the age of responsible tourism, which demands creative solutions to ensure tourism is sustainable over the long term and precious resources are carefully and effectively conserved.
To drive this message home and demonstrate our genuine commitment to nurturing Green and Sustainable Tourism, we have adopted the theme “Caring for the Earth” for TTM Plus 2011.
A greater number of sellers are offering green and sustainable travel products. I encourage you to meet with our forward-thinking entrepreneurs who are leading Thailand’s Green Revolution. We organized a forum on "Thailand Goes Green” for Buyers and Sellers yesterday, we also offer Green Routes for TTM Post Tours this year.
Some of the products we are promoting under the "Caring for the Earth” concept are spas and green spaces.
World-class Thai Spas and Wellness
Thailand is home to several of the world’s Top-10 award-winning spas. Furthermore, Thai spa and wellness products are much sought after and are now available in cosmopolitan capitals around the world.
For visitors who are looking for an uplifting and rejuvenating holistic experience, Thailand offers “Spa In Mind.” This offers a truly Thai touch that brings together the elements of mind, body and spirit; ancient folk wisdom in traditional Thai herbal healing techniques; meditation; and internationally-recognized standards of service delivered in a caring and gentle way that you can only find in Thailand.
The country spans several diverse geographic regions. This gives rise to a multitude of natural habitats and landscapes. This natural and geographical diversity makes Thailand the ideal place for nature-based activities such as trekking, bird watching, rafting and kayaking. More and more tourists are enjoying Thailand up close by cycling in our many natural parks and historical parks, including several World Heritage sites.
TAT also supports Community Based Tourism programmes that offer visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the local culture and directly experience the Thai way of life, customs and traditions. This provides an important incentive for communities to preserve their indigenous way of life. We are also developing Sustainable Tourism Routes, bringing many parties into alignment to offer visitors a total green travel experience.
Ladies and gentlemen,
For our fifty-first anniversary, TAT is building on the success of our own “green tourism” initiatives which are based on our balanced strategy. It integrates concern for the environment as well as economics, society and technology into our marketing strategy to achieve sustainable tourism. We have realized the necessity of balancing the revenue generation with preserving ecological assets.
Under the theme of "Go Green, Go Thailand," we encourage the public and private sectors to approach tourism with greater environmental care. Our programmes are based on the TAT concept of “Seven Greens,” which combines eco-concern and visitors' CSR awareness. It has established a conceptual framework and umbrella theme for promoting Green Tourism initiatives and projects around Thailand.
Besides Seven Greens, TAT has initiated other sustainable Green Tourism practices such as:
- The Thailand Tourism Awards first launched in 1996 with the recognition and endorsement of the World Tourism Organization.
- The Green Leaf Certification Programme initiated by the TAT in 1998 and now championed by the Green Leaf Foundation.
- The Green Leaf Certification Programme recognizes hotel owners, operators and their business partners who use environmentally-efficient technology in their tourism activities. The programme has currently placed 220 certified Green Leaf hotels and 535 smoke-free hotels on the map.
During 2011, TAT will strengthen our green tourism initiatives. We are redefining the many environmentally-friendly activities visitors to Thailand can explore and cherish. Through collaboration with our partners, we are identifying interesting options for eco-friendly travel. We are certain our efforts to increase green tourism will provide richer experiences for visitors to Thailand while minimizing their travel footprint. At the same time, it will encourage greater sustainability among providers in Thailand's travel sector.
All of these collaborative efforts being jointly undertaken by TAT, agencies of the Thai government and the private sector work together to propel Thailand towards a “Greener” future.
Tourism Investment – Another Important Indicator of the Vote of Confidence in Thailand
Ladies and gentlemen, another key indicator of the strength of Thailand's tourism sector is investments. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the total value of investment in the Thai tourism sector in 2011 is estimated at 260.3 billion Baht or equivalent to 8.6 billion US dollars. This includes investment in hotels and resorts, theme parks, and other aspects of the tourism industry.
Foreign investors are demonstrating their confidence in the Kingdom with major hotel investments. Visitors to Thailand can also choose from many new designer hotels or luxury hotels that have opened up in Bangkok and around the country in the year 2010-2011 with more coming in 2012 and 2013.
Major event planners, who put a lot of effort into choosing the best possible host venues, are also confident about holding their events in Thailand. The World Sport Destination Expo will take place here from September 27th to 29th, 2011. The week-long Asia’s Golf Hub 2011 event will take place in Pattaya at the end of October, that will include the 2011 Asia Pacific Golf summit and other related events. And next May, the Rotary International Convention 2012 will bring around thirty thousand members of this service organization to Thailand, along with their families.
Thailand as a Gateway to the Greater Mekong Subregion
Ladies and gentlemen, the “Plus” in TTM Plus 2011 refers to our neighbouring countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion, or GMS. What Thailand has in common with our neighbouring GMS countries is a rich shared history and heritage.
All member countries of the GMS benefit from combining our respective strengths to promote the entire area as a tourist destination. We each recognize the importance of promoting regional tourism.
Thailand’s strategic location makes it a logical gateway to the GMS. This is going to be a magnet theme for the country, especially during June next year when Thailand hosts the Mekong Tourism Forum 2012 in Chiang Rai. Moreover, Chiang Mai has been selected as a pilot city to promote green tourism in the GMS.
Thailand continues to strengthen our transportation ties with the other GMS countries. We have also implemented bilateral and trilateral marketing campaigns with other GMS countries and constantly explore how we can enhance the visitor’s experience when they travel around the GMS.
In marketing ‘Destination Thailand’ to the world, we are increasing our use of social media as a key communications channel for both marketing activities as well as for when crisis situations arise.
We are seeing tremendous results from our social media marketing efforts and are thrilled that they have been recognized. We recently received the PATA Gold Award 2011 for the Marketing of a Primary Government Destination for our Amazing Thailand social networking, including the Amazing Thailand Facebook page and mobile application. Our Facebook page has nearly 180,000 fans.
Ladies and gentlemen, there is one consistent thread that runs through the findings from numerous research studies, focus groups, reader’s polls and surveys conducted through the years; decades even.
Time and again, Thailand consistently makes a distinct and long-lasting positive impression on visitors who have been here. The Thai people touch the hearts of visitors with kindness, generosity, gracious, warm hospitality and friendly ways. It is this warmth and friendliness – an exceptionally endearing quality – that visitors remember most about our country and which makes them come back on repeat visits with family and friends – sometimes over several generations.
This is why Thailand recovers rapidly after situations arise; such as, the political protests or the tsunami. Visitors to Thailand form a strong bond with the country. Those who have not been here either hear about it or read about it and want to discover this captivating aspect of Thailand and Thai culture for themselves at least once in a lifetime.
This distinctive appeal of the Thailand brand, and the compelling attraction of what it represents, enables our country to bring back visitors quickly.
This is why we have adopted the theme “Amazing Thailand Always Amazes You.” Amazing Thailand is a wonderfully concise summary of what Thailand has to offer. We extended the theme with "Always Amazes You" to reinforce that, no matter how often you visit the Kingdom, you will discover something new and wonderful each time.
In reaching out to potential visitors worldwide, we will be launching online a new short film that accentuates this emotional appeal that Thailand has for visitors and will be leveraging the use of social media technology as the platform for our emotional marketing initiatives.
Ladies and gentlemen, sometimes, it is impossible for us to find the right words to express how we feel … to describe what moves us and how it touches us here.
Before ending today, I would like to share with you a summary of our series of emotional marketing initiatives. This short video clip is called “Hearing the Sunshine”. Enjoy.