Countries such as China, Japan and South Korea may already dominate the visitor tables of many South-east Asian countries, but the trade thinks more can still be done to attract high-end leisure travellers and nurture the FIT market coming into the region.
Sreat Mom Sophear, director of Sophiya Travel and Tours Cambodia, said while Chinese visitors are the country’s second highest market, the European market, which lags, is of more value.
European tourists sightseeing in Cambodia
She said: “It’s not just about numbers, it’s about the value of each tourist. The North Asian market tends to do more repeat visits and come more for shopping, whereas for the European market it will be a once-in-a-lifetime trip so they have a higher budget.”
Dong Hoang Thinh, managing director of Dong Travel in Vietnam, echoes her sentiments, saying the FIT market in these countries needs to be targeted more on a national level.
Said Dong: “(China) is a particularly hard market to break. It is very competitive, there are communication barriers and they tend to use their own operators, who organise specific hotels and tours.”
Sokhom Thok, director of international cooperation and ASEAN at Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism, said efforts are being made to welcome higher spending Chinese tourists.
These include the signing of a tourism development agreement between the ministry and China’s Shanghai Spring International Travel Service Group and the launch of the China Ready Centre to determine the demands of Chinese tourists, as well as train Cambodian tourist operators’ Chinese language and cultural skills.
It is also hoped that plans to host ASEAN travel forums in China, Japan and South Korea this year, showcasing the region’s attractions, will lure more high-end travellers.
Cambodia is not alone in its quality visitor aim, with Vietnam also shifting its focus for the Chinese market. “China is one of the most important markets in Vietnam but now we need to focus on quality rather than volume,” said Ha Van Sieu, vice chairman, Vietnam Administration of Tourism (VNAT).
China and Vietnam have just entered into an MoU this month to foster visitor exchange, while VNAT will train more tour guides in Chinese and carry out marketing campaigns in China directed specifically at the segment.
As Myanmar’s Ministry of Hotels and Tourism gears up to embrace tourism countrywide, union minister Ohn Maung says attracting “quality” tourists is top of the agenda but tour operators need to lead the way.
He said: “We are focusing on the Western market but will not neglect the East; however, we want quality. Tour operators can choose the rates and lead the market so we get this quality.”