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Post crisis Thai tourism agenda unveiled
POSTED | 12:58 PM | 29-07-2014

Post-crisis Thai tourism agenda unveiled

-- By Imtiaz Muqbil

In what could be a global first, the Tourism Authority of Thailand has veered away from fixing tourism targets in terms of arrival numbers and shifted to expenditure stats. It has also dropped the short-lived marketing campaign slogan “It Begins with the People” and replaced it with “Amazing Thailand – Happiness Within.” And 2015 will also see a significant stress on domestic tourism.

Announced by Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Thawatchai Arunyik at the end of the TAT’s annual marketing planning caucus on July 7, the changes have been motivated by the dire circumstances of the first half of 2014 when visitor arrivals have been well below targets, thanks to the extended political unrest of October 2013-May 2014. 

With the military now in charge and the political protesters off the streets, it did allow the TAT executives to emerge from a fire-fighting mode and plan for the immediate future with some degree of stability on the horizon.

Here are the key points of the strategy shift:

Revenue Earnings

The TAT is targetting 2.2 trillion baht in tourism revenues for 2015, comprising of 1.4 trillion baht from foreign visitors and 800 billion baht from domestic travellers. In 2013, the actual numbers were 1.2 trillion baht in earnings from 26.5 million foreign arrivals. This year’s arrivals and expenditure forecasts have been adjusted a number of times due to the political unrest.

Unwilling to risk making any more public forecasts on the number of arrivals for 2015, the TAT has now shifted to setting  expenditure targets, focussing on yield per tourist, regardless of the visitor numbers. Arrivals targets will be set, but kept for internal use only, at least until the external situation stabilises.

This strategic theme will be actioned via major campaigns to enhance the length of stay and boost expenditure on shopping, eating and ancillary niche-markets such as health & wellness, golf, weddings & honeymoons, etc. Several tourism industry officials and executives said they would like to see this materialise, and will be watching carefully to ascertain results.

After an analysis of arrivals trends in the first half, the TAT has divided global source-markets into those which need revival, such as those in East Asia, ASEAN, South Asia and the Middle East, and those which have been less affected (mainly Europe, North America and Africa). The overall strategy will be to penetrate secondary cities and target new customer segments in gateway cities, such as family groups, youth groups, students, corporate groups, working women and new workers with high purchasing power.

For all these target markets, the main buttons to be pressed will be linking the existing theme of “Thainess” to the new one of “Happiness” by highlighting the Thai way of life, including Thai Cuisine, Culture and Communities. The TAT will also help market newly established and upcoming tourist attractions and work with travel industry associations, shopping malls and Thai restaurants, both within Thailand and abroad.

The TAT will also continue to capitalise on the unique advantage of the country’s geographical location to tap the opportunities that will open up under the integrated ASEAN Community in 2015. This will mean promoting both intra-ASEAN travel as well as travel from outside the region into ASEAN. In line with the strategy to promote better income distribution upcountry, specific opportunities are projected to promote cross-border tourism via Thailand’s border checkpoints with Laos and Cambodia.

Happiness

The new tourism slogan, Amazing Thailand Happiness Within, is directly in line with the stated policy of the military-led government, otherwise known as the National Council for Peace and Order. According to the NCPO policy statement, “What the NCPO intends and what it considers most important is to return happiness to the people by working rapidly to reduce the widespread anxiety and distrust, rid our country of corruption, and build public confidence in the justice system. We will also work to address all issues that are affecting the safety of people’s life and property; to create jobs and income opportunities for those with low-income; to instill in our people a systematic thought process and knowledge so that they can become strong, disciplined and respect the law and ready to confront global changes.”

The statement says that the NCPO’s Social Psychology Cluster is responsible for “solving problems that weaken Thai society by initially introducing ‘bring back happiness’ activities in various forms nationwide to create a good atmosphere.”

The tourism industry has already started benefitting from this as the military government has cracked down on taxi mafias, organised crime syndicates and illegal gambling dens, and plans further action against those involved with deforestation and illegal logging. All these long-standing problems are a long way from being solved, but they have given the travel & tourism industry some reason to believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Mr Thawatchai said that to ensure the return of visitor confidence, a big national campaign will be required to invite visitors to rediscover the “Thai Way of Happiness.” He said: “When tourists are happy, they will forward their messages (via social media). We will focus on building promotions via ‘forwarding messages’ in the online world. This will create more trips to Thailand.”

The first tactical big-bang event to build on this theme was an Image Restoration Project: “Thailand Happiness” held between 25-26 July. With a total budget of 35 million baht, the former political protest site of Ratchaprasong in Central Bangkok again was shut down, but this time it was turned into a Happiness Street, for two days of shopping, partying, food and music concerts.

Domestic tourism

Domestic tourism has become a lifesaver in times of crisis, but is plagued by heavy seasonality patterns. The plan to generate 800 billion baht in income will be implemented by stimulating demand amongst mainstream groups, families, working people, the elderly and young people. The TAT has created a roster of 10 Dream Destinations that have unique and interesting stories, and natural and floral attractions. They will be packaged under the theme of “Must Visit Cities” in 2015. The TAT also aims to encourage Thai people to travel during weekdays rather than just over weekends and long holidays, using incentive campaigns for various regions throughout the year.

For the first time, the TAT has enlisted Thailand’s most popular heart-throb Ananda Everingham to promote domestic tourism via a three-month TV campaign that will be based on the simple theme, “Pleasure to Welcome You.” A humble and no-airs personality who speaks fluent Thai and English, Mr Everingham is the son of long-time Thai resident, the Australian photo-journalist John Everingham and a Laotian mother. He was invited to the marketing planning event and offer some personal thoughts on travelling within Thailand. Needless to say, he became the star attraction of the evening.

Concluding the domestic and international marketing planning presentations, Mr Thawatchai said, “Next year’s targets are very challenging, but TAT believes that with good cooperation and professionalism from all sectors here, we can step forward to reach the target, based on a common vision and sense of purpose.” The core concepts will be to restore visitors’ confidence in Thailand by promoting Thainess, happiness, sustainability, as well as balanced and equitable growth.

Read more: http://www.travel-impact-newswire.com/2014/07/thailand-unveils-post-crisis-tourism-marketing-agenda/#ixzz38mO4lSWU

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