As the number of international tourist arrivals into Thailand surged past 38 million in 2018, the South-east Asian tourism heavyweight is seeing a greater urgency to encourage travellers to visit lesser-known parts in the country to take pressure off travel hotspots and spread tourist revenues to smaller destinations.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), which finally removed arrival numbers from its annual target last year, again reiterated a “quality over quantity” focus for its international marketing strategies at the Thailand Travel Mart Plus (TTM+), which is currently taking place in Pattaya’s Ocean Marina for the second consecutive year.
Speaking at the TAT media briefing on the opening day of TTM+, TAT deputy governor for marketing communications Tanes Petsuwan said: “We are seeking a balance between quality versus quantity, marketing versus management… We are trying very hard to move Thailand from a mass to niche tourism destination.
“We are putting an emphasis on responsible tourism. The key is to manage numbers and create a higher level of environmental consciousness among the industry,” Tanes stated.
With sustainable tourism as its overarching goal, TTM+ 2019 is themed Open to New Shades of Emerging Destinations to put the spotlight on 55 provinces across Thailand, aligning with TAT’s marketing message of spreading international visitor footfall as well as revenue from major destinations to secondary destinations in the country.
According to Tanes, TAT’s emerging destination focus has reaped positive results, as the 55 provinces recorded six million trips in 2018, up 4.9 per cent from the year below.
Looking ahead, TAT is adopting the “ABC strategy” for its emerging destinations push, namely:
- Additional (A), linking up major destinations with neighbouring emerging cities such as Chiang Mai and Lamphun and Lampang in the north, or Pattaya with Chanthaburi and Trat in the Eastern Seaboard;
- Brand-new (B), promoting popular emerging cities with its own strong identity and positioning. A key example is Buriram, a province rich to strong Khmer heritage and is also up-and-rising global sports events destination with the launch of Chang International Circuit and MotoGP race;
- Combine (C), co-promoting emerging cities with shared history or proximity, like bundling ancient Thai civilisations and kingdoms Sukhothai with Phitsanulok and Khampaeng Phet or Nakhon Si Thammarat together with Phattalung in a historical route.
In particular, Tanes also singled out Thale Noi, in Phattalung province in Thailand’s south, as “a rising star that TAT wants to promote”. Other emerging destinations rising in prominence are Chiang Rai, Trat, Sukhothai and Nong Khai, which are favoured among the Chinese, German, French and Laotian markets respectively.
But wouldn’t an emerging destination tack, besides spreading visitor footfall and revenue, also bring a host of issues such as visitor surge and congestion to smaller destinations, TTG Asia asked.
In response, Tanes didn’t deny the difficulty of maintaining the quality-quantity balance in emerging destinations, but he stated that TAT’s 29 offices worldwide and 49 domestic offices are “working closely to find the perfect match between the market and city”, and has also “invested in a lot of data and information to match demand and supply”.
Chiravadee Khunsub, TAT’s director of UK, Ireland & South Africa, shared that the UK market is particularly interested in culture and beaches, hence emerging destinations including Chiang Rai in the north, and Chumphon and Ranong have been promoted to this particular market.