Thailand set new tourism records in 2012, welcoming more visitors than ever before, and plans are in place to increase these numbers further with strategies already developed to ensure that the tourism industry stays on a track in 2013 and beyond, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) recently announced.
According to TAT Governor, Mr. Suraphon Svetasreni, TAT expects international arrivals to rise 11% to 24.5 million visitors this year, building on a record-setting 15% increase from 2011 to 2012. Thailand is expected to enjoy an increase in revenue of at least THB1,149,000 million baht, a 19% jump from 2012 and Mr. Suraphon told the press that the tourism is now recognised as Thailand’s most important service industry based on foreign exchange earnings, job creation and income distribution.
TAT joined with representatives from several travel-based Thai public and private sector groups at Suvanhabhumi Airport on December 28, 2012, to welcome Thailand’s 21 million and first visitor. Arriving passengers were pleasantly shocked when greeted and given Nong Sukjai mascot doll gifts by Mr. Suraphon Svetasreni, key officers of Airports of Thailand Public Co., Ltd., and Thai Airways International. Also attending were spokespeople from various tourism associations of Thailand, and a throng of local media. The growth presages “our confidence in achieving 22 million arrivals very soon,” said the TAT Governor, who also pointed out significant increases in tourist numbers at Suvanhabhumi Airport (35%) and Phuket International Airport (47%) in the first half of December 2012.
Calling the event a “major milestone” for Thailand’s tourism industry, Mr. Suraphon noted that more visitors now hail from other Asian nations, saying that the 10 countries with peak visitor numbers include Japan, Singapore, Laos, South Korea, Malaysia, China, India, Russia, Australia and the United Kingdom. This indicates a growing trend with the increase in tourism from other regional countries expected to climb further in 2015 with the implementation of the ASEAN economic Community.
Looking to the future, TAT has developed its new “Thailand and Beyond Strategy” to capitalise on regional developments. It focuses on the exponential opportunities that will come as the 10-country ASEAN group grows to become ASEAN +3 (Japan, South Korea and China), then launches into ASEAN +6 (India, Australia and Russia).
The 2013 Action Plan, themed “Higher Revenue through Thai-ness,” sees TAT working to emphasise the Kingdom's singular assets — both man-made and natural. It will target younger visitor bases from emerging tourist markets, appealing to visitors by highlighting the Charm of Thailand, which has under its umbrella Thai Culture, the Thai Way of Life and Thai Experience.
TAT is responding to a global trend that sees travellers seeking more than mere passive observation and relaxation while on holiday, but also wanting to learn more about their host country. To address this demand, marketing efforts will include Creative Tourism, designed to promote uniquely Thai events such as Thai boxing (also known as “Muay Thai”), and also to allow visitors to immerse themselves in the things many people come to the country to experience, like Thai massage, Thai classical dancing, Thai food and cooking, as well as absorbing Thai local folklore and wisdom.
“Discover The Other You,” is another campaign for the coming year, which aims to particularly push this type of traveling-learning combination, focusing on different activities from the norm. Promotional shots of tourists will include them ploughing fields behind a water buffalo, participating in a real Thai rice harvest, and actively learning meditation techniques and Thai massage skills.
Simple ads will just be the start, however, as TAT moves to team up with hotels in showing videos of these activities, and also to use various social media and digital marketing channels to attract more luxury market visitors in Thailand’s quickly expanding tourist segments, such as Health and Wellness, Wedding and Honeymoon, Golf, and Green Tourism. TAT’s “DISCO Plan” shows the upcoming promotional approach in its acronym: Digital marketing, Image-building, Sustainable Development, Crystallization/Crisis Management, and Organization Management.
Governor Suraphon noted that industry-wide cooperation and information-gathering at all levels is at the base of future plans, saying, “ The strategic direction for TAT action in 2013 has been formulated entirely with the cooperation of all parties involved in the tourism industry, and its implementation will also need the same level of cooperation.”
If current tourism trends continue, 2013 looks to be another record-breaking year for Thailand.
By Jubel Shaw