NTOs reflect on the past year and look ahead

What troubled tourism bureaus this year and what developments are poised to make waves in 2015?


From left: Thailand plays up its cultural strengths; Malaysia Year of Festivals will kick off in 2015; Diving into waters teeming with coral reefs are some of the fun activities available in the Philippines; The Restaurant Australia campaign emphasises the abundance of fresh produce Down Under; Singapore, with its ever-changing skyline, is now leveraging arts to attract visitors

Lionel Yeo, chief executive, Singapore Tourism Board
Biggest challenge in 2014 Singapore’s tourism sector has had to adapt to a changing profile of visitors, as more FITs and tourists are coming to Singapore on mono-destination trips. This shift has been particularly evident in our 2014 arrivals from China.

For example, the number of Chinese visitors staying at least two days from January to August 2014 jumped 21 per cent year-on-year to 631,000. The average length of stay of Chinese visitors during the same period has also risen year-on-year from 2.9 to 4.4 days.

Significant developments in 2015 Next year, we look forward to the opening of the National Gallery Singapore, Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris and Southeast Asian Games, while Royal Caribbean International will offer year-round sailings from Singapore for the first time. These add to our tourism offerings and establish Singapore as the region’s leading arts, cruise and sports destination. We will also continue to strengthen our lead as a MICE city through the MICE2020 Roadmap.

As Singapore turns 50, we also celebrate our burgeoning creative scene and invite people to look at the city from a different perspective with Singapore: Inside Out, a multi-disciplinary travelling showcase featuring local contemporary creative talents and their works.

By Paige Lee Pei Qi

Mirza Mohammad Taiyab, director-general, Tourism Malaysia

Biggest challenge in 2014 Regaining the confidence and trust from Chinese tourists. Since MH370 went missing in March, we have lost nearly one-third of the tourists from China who cancelled or suspended their holidays up to early 2015. We hope that 2015 will see a full recovery. Tourism Malaysia has since May 2014 embarked on an aggressive mission to recover Chinese arrivals, striking up marketing partnerships with airlines and working with outbound operators in China to arrange for charters.

Most significant development in 2015 In 2015, we will launch the Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015 campaign, a continuation of the Visit Malaysia Year 2014. Themed Endless Celebrations, the year-long campaign offers many spectacular events related to cultural festivals, arts and music showcases, food promotions, shopping and sporting events. These events include Putrajaya Skyride Festival, International Festival of Shadow Plays, Truly Asian Street Food Festival and Kuala Lumpur Lake Gardens Festival.

By S Puvaneswary

Juthaporn Rerngronasa, deputy governor for international marketing (Europe, Africa, Middle East and the Americas), Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)
Biggest challenge in 2014 (Due to) the country’s political unrest, we were challenged to think creatively across the board to maintain visitor confidence and ensure Thailand’s brand image remains powerful and strong. Our visitor arrivals for 2014 are projected at 25.5 million, down 3.9 per cent from 2013, but we have kept our spirits up, worked closely with the private and public sectors, and made good use of social media to counter the negative images portrayed in the global media.

Significant developments in 2015 The advent of the Asean Economic Community and the new TAT marketing campaign, 2015 Discover Thainess, which will focus on the Thai way of life, culture and experiences as well as the 12 hidden gem cities. ASEAN integration will make us stronger as a region and build on the combined strengths of 10 countries, while the Discover Thainess campaign will help maintain Thailand’s individuality, character and identity by highlighting what makes us unique as a culture and society. We have also designed a calendar of monthly festivals and events through 2015.

By Greg Lowe

Esthy Reko Astuti, director general of tourism marketing, Ministry of Tourism
Biggest challenge in 2014 While regional destinations’ awareness of the importance of tourism is getting better, their product development and marketing coordination with the central government are still lagging. The regency and municipal governments have the right to set priorities, however, there needs to be synergy between the central government and the regions to promote themselves (as part of Indonesia). Another challenge is for the destinations to enrich their potential products such as restoring heritage buildings, improving capacity of tour guides, etc.

Most significant development in 2015 The new stand-alone tourism ministry will offer a good chance to better develop destinations, products, people and infrastructure. In the last government we focused on 16 destinations and we are planning to add nine more destinations next year.

By Mimi Hudoyo

Le Tuan Anh, director general, tourism marketing department, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism
Biggest challenge in 2014 Vietnam has a lot of good tourism products but arrivals are still limited. Difficulties lie in our marketing activities, which are not strong enough globally. We are getting more support from the government in recent years, but it is still small compared with neighbouring countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Due to limited budgets, we are more focused on ASEAN, North Asia (China, Japan and South Korea) and traditional markets in Europe.

Most significant development in 2015 In 2015, we will launch the National Tourism Year with the theme of Connecting World Heritage in Vietnam in Thanh Hoa, a central province home to marine attractions, mountains and cultural attractions like the Ho Dynasty Citadel, which was recongised by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site.

At the same time, we will continue to leverage our successful Vietnam – Timeless Charm slogan, launched in 2012. We’re targeting more than eight million foreign arrivals in 2015.

By Xinyi Liang-Pholsena

Art Boncato, Jr, assistant tourism secretary, Philippine Department of Tourism (DoT)
Biggest challenge in 2014 To accommodate the growing number of international and domestic tourists in the Philippines, there is a need to hasten infrastructure development that covers the construction, upgrade and expansion of airports, seaports and roads leading to destinations from north to the south. A successful initiative was the 30 billion pesos (US$668 million) Tourism Road Infrastructure Prioritization Project, which saw the development of roads and improved access to existing attractions.

Most significant development in 2015 It’s Visit the Philippines Year 2015, and the DoT has put together a programme to bring in first-time and repeat travellers to the country. Major events happening all over the country from January to December are clustered under lifestyle; music, arts and entertainment; history and culture; sports, adventure and eco-tourism; and business. These events fulfil the promise of fun in the Philippines.

By Rosa Ocampo

Anthony Lau, executive director, Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB)
Biggest challenge in 2014 The HKTB had to move the venue of the Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival from the Central Harbourfront to the old Kai Tak runway in just a few weeks’ time, which involved re-planning and re-deploying resources in venue set-up, promotional strategies and logistics arrangements. It turned out to be a very successful event, with attendance reaching almost 180,000.

Most significant development in 2015 Given the low penetration rate of cruise travel in Asia and a fast-growing middle class, Asia’s cruise market is expected to expand at a fast pace. Hong Kong can definitely be one of the region’s hubs with our strategic location. To fully tap the cruise market potential, the HKTB will continue to seek cooperation with more destination ports in the region by encouraging them to participate in the Asia Cruise Fund, launched earlier this year with Hong Kong and Taiwan as the two founding members.
– Prudence Lui

Maria Helena de Senna 
Fernandes, director, Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO)
Biggest challenge in 2014 Organising the 8th APEC Tourism Ministerial Meeting (TMM8) was among Macau’s top responsibilities for 2014. The success of TMM8 was a great opportunity for Macau to showcase its tourism uniqueness and ability to organise high-profile events, and particularly special this year as Macau marks its 15th anniversary (of return to Chinese sovereignty).

Significant developments in 2015 MGTO will soon be launching an international tender for the drafting of a Macau Tourism Master Plan, which will involve not only industry stakeholders but also the whole community.

Upcoming developments are the second-phase opening of Galaxy, which includes JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels with more than 1,300 keys; the Studio City, which will have a five-star hotel, shopping mall and multi-purpose entertainment studio; and the 3,000-room Parisian Macao, with recreated Parisian shopping streets and a half-size replica of the Eiffel Tower.

By Prudence Lui

KIyonori Ogawa, director, marketing & promotion department, South-east Asia and India, Japan National Tourism Organization
Biggest challenge in 2014 Some trade members were concerned that the capacity of hotels or chartered buses during the peak spring season would not be able to accommodate the fast-growing inbound traffic from South-east Asia. However, we have taken steps to deal with this. Japan is now promoting airline network expansion between South-east Asia and Japan. A lot of new hotels, both deluxe and no-frills, are due to open soon.

Most significant development in 2015 We expect more South-east Asian visitors as a result of the expanded aviation network or new access points in 2015. This year, we have focused on Kyushu as a new destination for Thailand after Jetstar Asia’s launch of direct flights between Bangkok and Fukuoka. Singapore Airlines will operate seasonal flights between Singapore and Sapporo this winter and SilkAir will operate charter flights between Singapore and Okinawa.

By Hannah Koh

Lin Kun-Yuan, director of international affairs division, Taiwan Tourism Bureau (TTB)
Biggest challenges in 2014 The number of visitors to Taiwan reached eight million in 2013 but neighbouring destinations had introduced many special offers including visa-free entry to attract more tourists. The TTB continues to strive for visa exemption for the new developing market of South-east Asia.

We continue to focus on developing and upgrading the quality of Taiwan’s tourism and products, and rate hotels and bed-and-breakfast inns under the hotel star-rating and hospitable B&B evaluation and selection system. We have expanded Taiwan tourism’s international outreach through our Time for Taiwan brand, actively publicising our unique festivals and activities (on the global stage).

Significant developments in 2015 We are targeting 10 million visitors. We will promote regional cruise development by working with the Hong Kong Tourism Commission on the Asia Cruise Fund. We will also promote ‘caring tourism’ and construct obstacle-free tourism for senior citizens. We will strengthen the quality of the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle and Taiwan Tour Bus services, expand the iTravel Internet services, and implement the Taiwan Tourism Code of Ethics.

By Prudence Lui

Helen Shim, director, Singapore office, Korea Tourism Organization (KTO)
Biggest challenges in 2014 The majority of MICE events used to take place in convention centres, but with bigger incentive groups coming from the region it has become a challenge as more organisers are now seeking unique venues for their events.

Meanwhile, KTO has been trying to encourage visitors to travel out of their comfort zones and experience unique offerings in other provinces besides Seoul. For example, in June we received a 15,000-pax incentive group from Amway China. The biggest challenge was to locate the most suitable port of call for the cruise ship. The group arrived at Kwangyang in Yeosu City, where we arranged a massive welcome ceremony at the port.

Most significant development in 2015 The 85-floor Lotte World Tower will be the tallest building in the nation when construction is completed in October 2016. There will be an observatory, an art gallery, a hotel, offices, a medical centre and other amenities. The (adjoining) 11-storey Lotte World Mall will house over 1,000 local and global stores, including Lotte Mart, Lotte Cinema, Lotte Duty Free, Hi Mart and Lotte World Aquarium.

By Xinyi Liang-Pholsena

Li Shihong, department of tourism promotion and international liaison head, China National Tourism Administration
Biggest challenge in 2014 We will need to do more to improve our service standards in China to project an appealing image to tourists. We are already improving that, which is a good step forward.

Most significant development in 2015 With the development of the Internet, it has become increasingly important to take advantage of new technologies to achieve the ‘multiplication effect’ to promote our destination. Aside from promotion via traditional media platforms, we will make better use of the new media to boost our online promotion.

By Paige Lee Pei Qi

John O’Sullivan, managing director, Tourism Australia
Biggest challenge in 2014 This year’s key challenge remains the same, i.e. to stand out and cut through a fiercely competitive tourism landscape. This has been a great year so far for Australia tourism, with record international arrivals and visitor spending, and the launch of a new global campaign, Restaurant Australia, emphasising our country’s world-class food, wine and culinary experiences.

Most significant development in 2015 We are tapping into the growing appetite amongst international travellers for great culinary tourism experiences. We want to raise the profile of our country’s high-quality food and wine offerings and encourage more international visitors to come and sample these for themselves.

By Paige Lee Pei Qi

Mahesh Sharma, minister of state for tourism, culture and civil aviation
Biggest challenge in 2014 The most challenging issue was to shed the country’s ‘unsafe’ image for female travellers and to restore confidence among foreign tourists, following a series of reported sexual assaults involving foreign female travellers that dented the image of India as a safe destination.

We will soon offer tourists the option of travelling by chip-enabled taxis from the airports, which would allow vehicle tracking and bio-data of the drivers.

Most significant development in 2015 India is liberalising its stringent visa regime by implementing the Electronic Travel Authorisation in phases. The first phase, comprising 30 countries including the US, Brazil, Japan, South Korea and Argentina, will be implemented by end-2014, and 2015 will see more countries added to the list. The Indian government is looking to extend the facility to 180 countries in the next two years.

By Rohit Kaul

Vipula Wanigasekera, general manager, Sri Lanka Convention Bureau
Biggest challenge in 2014 We are concerned about the impact of mass tourism. Striking a balance between development and sustainable tourism, getting the required investment for the sector, and promoting the country among primary and secondary markets were the most challenging tasks.

Significant developments in 2015 The speedy construction and upcoming completion of new mega hotels like Shangri-La, Sheraton, Movenpick and Marriott is eagerly awaited by the authorities to prepare for the flow of 2.5 million tourist arrivals by 2016.

Sri Lanka will market the country aggressively to boost arrivals from China and other emerging markets. New expressways would also increase accessibility to more locations.

By Feizal Samath

This article was first published in TTG Asia, December 12, 2014 issue, on page 12. To read more, please view our digital edition or click here to subscribe

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