Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), delivered the following speech on ‘Thailand Tourism Market 2017-2018: TAT New Initiatives to Drive Forward Thailand’s Competitive Tourism Market’ at the British Chamber of Commerce Thailand (BCCT) Multi-Chambers Lunch on 16 August 2017 at Bangkok Marriott Hotel Sukhumvit, Bangkok.
It gives me great pleasure to be with you here today. I would like to thank the British Chamber of Commerce for giving me an opportunity to share with you some of the important trends and directions in Thai travel and tourism. The timing is perfect. We have just concluded our annual Action Plan meeting and have many new initiatives to announce. Indeed, travel and tourism is now well on its way to becoming one of our most promising and successful economic sectors, and will remain so for many decades. All of you present here today can play a role in making those dreams come true.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In 2016, our international visitor arrivals totalled 32.6 million, up by 9 percent over 2015. This generated tourism revenue of 42 billion US Dollars (around 44 billion Euros or 1.64 trillion Baht), an increase of 13 percent. This growth has continued during January – June 2017 with visitor arrivals of 17.3 million, generating income of 25.24 billion US Dollars (23.31 billion Euros or 876 billion Baht). China is now by far the top source market followed by Malaysia and Korea. In 2017, we hope to hit the target revenue of 50 billion US Dollars (around 48 billion Euros or 1.81 trillion Baht). In 2018, TAT has set a growth target of 8 percent in tourism revenue from the international market.
The tourism sector in Thailand has a significant role to drive the national economy. According to research by the World Travel and Tourism Council, in 2016, the direct contribution of travel and tourism to Thailand’s GDP was 36.7 billion US Dollars (33.07 billion Euros or 1.29 trillion Baht), 9.2 percent of the total GDP, and it is forecast to rise by 9.3 percent in 2017, and to rise by 6.7 percent annually from 2017-2027, to 76.9 billion US Dollars (76.83 billion Euros or 2.7 trillion Baht), to 14.3 percent of the total GDP in 2027.
In 2016, travel and tourism directly supported more than 2.3 million jobs or 6.1 percent of the total employment. This is expected to rise by 6.3 percent in 2017 and rise by 5 percent per year to more than 4 million jobs or 10.4 percent of the total employment in 2027.
As the tourism industry is a major supplier of various fields, I think you will find that the growth prospects will create enormous business opportunities for all of you across the multi-Chambers of Commerce network as well as tourism and hospitality industry.
Thailand’s global accolades
It is very heart-warming to know that Thailand’s tourism products remain popular on the global stage. For example, Bangkok retained its place as the number one most visited city in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the influential Mastercard Asia-Pacific Destinations Index. Phuket and Pattaya also placed in the Top Ten on the report.
In another important rating, Chiang Mai was ranked third place in a list of the 15 best city destinations in the world for 2017 by readers of the Travel + Leisure magazine in their Travel +Leisure World’s Best Awards: The World’s Top 15 Cities.
Overview of the Tourism Direction in 2018
-Thailand towards a Preferred Destination
In 2018, the marketing strategy will continue to position Thailand as a ‘Preferred Destination.’ This means whenever tourists wish to have a holiday, we hope Thailand will come up as a first choice. At the same time, we have to constantly upgrade the quality of products and services that deliver ‘Unique Thai Local Experiences’, which differentiate us from others.
A number of events have been held recently in support of this strategy.
In April 2017, we hosted the 2017 World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit. The WTTC comprises of exclusive private sector members of global travel and tourism multinational corporation CEOs. This was a phenomenal success with a turnout of more than 900 high-powered delegates in which the event received extensive global coverage.
Also, one of the most promising markets is weddings and honeymoons. To attract more weddings and honeymoons, we hosted the Destination Wedding Planners Congress 2017 in Phuket during 2-4 May. This was the first time Thailand hosted this prestigious event and the first time it was in Asia. I am happy to report that it was attended by more than 450 delegates from 65 countries, all by invitation only. We were most pleased with the positive response.
Then, in 2018, we will be off to a good start with Thailand hosting the ASEAN Tourism Forum in January in Chiang Mai. This will help reinforce Thailand’s image as ASEAN Connectivity and promote both inter and intra ASEAN travel. This year marks the fifitieth anniversary of the founding of ASEAN, with many activities and events under way to take this growth forward and promote ASEAN integration.
- Thai Local experiences, based on Thailand 4.0, which has been implemented as a unique selling point
Ladies and gentlemen,
While good marketing is important, it is even more important to ensure good management of the destinations, products and services that we are offering.
To ensure an upgraded standard of destination management, we will be relying on the concept of Thailand 4.0 and the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy by expanding on the value of Thai Local Experiences and taking into account the proper use of environmental, cultural, and social assets.
We want to make the local community truly benefit from tourism, and fulfill the goal of Inclusive Tourism.
- Sustainability-focussed approach for tourism sector in order to reduce the impact on the environment.
We want the entire travel industry to think more seriously about delivering the profits of tourism to the local community and reducing the environmental impact. Growth cannot come at the expense of natural resources, which is our primary asset, as the late King Bhumibol repeatedly stressed.
Three destinations that have been identified for pilot projects to promote responsible tourism are Chiang Rai, Phang Nga, and Trat, which are a good combination of emerging destinations in both North and South Thailand. Based on the principles of ‘Inclusive Tourism’, these secondary destinations will strive to develop good management systems and infrastructure facilities that can be replicated elsewhere. The goal will be to reduce congestion and better balance visitor arrivals in terms of both the actual numbers as well as the seasonality and period.
- Highlight Local Experiences through Gastronomy
In 2018, we will be forging stronger linkages with our agricultural sector. Gastronomy Tourism is an important part of travel through local experiences. It can also boost the country’s economy by adding value to products and services that are based on the unique Thai culture and ways of life. Research shows that the spending on food is found to be the highest of all expenditure. In July 2017, CNN Travel listed seven Thai dishes among the World’s 50 Best Foods. The list was compiled based on the votes of 35,000 readers via a Facebook poll.
This influential list shows how Thai cuisine is increasingly perceived as a world-class culinary experience and Thailand a great destination for foodie tourism.
TAT has played a large role in promoting Thai cuisine through several initiatives including launching the Amazing Thai Taste campaign in 2016, publishing several publications about Thai dishes and ingredients and the best places to find them, and sponsoring a large number of food based events.
This year, TAT has entered into a partnership with Michelin Travel Partner to publish a Michelin Guide Bangkok to be launched in December 2017, as well as with Gault & Millau to publish a bilingual Thailand guidebook in the Gault & Millau Belux 2018 edition. In May 2018, Thailand will host the UNWTO Conference on Gastronomy Tourism.
For the Thai people, Thai food is more than just a means of filling the stomach, but a source of national pride. The culinary delights of the secondary destinations countrywide will also be highlighted under the Amazing Gastronomy-Link programme or Amazing G-Link, an extension of The Link project, which is designed to promote secondary provinces and decongest the well-established, popular destinations.
- International Marketing Strategy 2018
Today, the competition for the global tourism dollar is intense, and getting more so. In order to maintain our brand image and market share, we have to constantly sharpen our promotional campaigns. Many activities have to be constantly created; such as, Village to the World, Creative Thailand and The Link. All these are created to highlight the Thai Local Experience.
The Tourism Action Plan 2018 is a comprehensive strategy designed to maintain a strong flow of visitors in a highly competitive environment. Its overarching slogan is to ensure that Thailand remains a Preferred Destination and a delivers a Quality Product, thus boosting the average length of stay, expenditure and repeat visitation.
We have started to see the results of our market restructuring efforts with strong growth in mid-to-high income visitors and first-time visitors. In order to develop this further, we have created a special branding strategy to position Thailand as a Luxury Travel Destination. This will help us shift from mass markets to niche markets. Next year, we will emphasise on promoting weddings and honeymoons and more female travellers.
As part of that, the strategy is to penetrate the luxury segment in the East Asian region and some ASEAN countries. Specific tactical campaigns to be carried out will include luxury roadshows and ‘co-branding’ with premium consumer brands in Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea.
We are also in pursuit of first-time visitors. Luckily, due to the huge demographic catchment base of Asia, there is no shortage of such visitors, especially in second tier cities in China, India and the ASEAN countries, all of which are within four to five hours flying time of Bangkok.
There is also an enormous pool of first-time visitors waiting to be tapped from Central Europe, the CIS, Middle East, Canada, and Latin America.
Therefore, TAT will open offices in Toronto, Canada and Sao Paulo, Brazil, to expand new markets of first visitors as well as join the Sao Paulo Fashion Week to present Thai designers at the global level.
- Communications Direction in 2018
The communication strategies for the international market will continue to use “Amazing Thailand”, which has been a popular and well-recognised marketing slogan for nearly 20 years. TAT will still use “Discover Amazing Stories in Amazing Thailand”.
In 2018, TAT will change its marketing angle slightly with a new concept of “Open to the New Shades of Thailand”. The concept will deepen the Unique Thai Local Experience to a Million Shades of Thailand. This will give more depth to the presentation of Thailand’s tourism, grow the business for grassroots tourism sector players, and enhance the country’s image as a land of amazing diversity worth discovering further. Today, I will show example of our mood & tone of promo next year.
Finally, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to suggest three ways you can help us meet our objectives:
Firstly, at the professional level, please hold more corporate meetings, training programmes, conferences, incentives and team-building events in Thailand. If each of your companies can hold at least one such event, regardless of its size, over the course of the next six months, that will be more than enough for this year.
Secondly, many of you already have many of your friends and families visiting Thailand for leisure and holidays. But why not also have them come here to get married, celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, and enjoy family reunions.
Thirdly, when choosing a venue for meetings or marriages, try one of our many emerging destinations, which need the business and the support. If you check out the TAT website for details of the LINK project, you will get an instant short-list of 10 destinations that we believe have the full range of products and services to cater to international visitors.
I know I can count on you for your support.
Once more, thank you all for inviting me here today. I will be happy to answer a few questions.
Thank you and sawasdee khrap.