Thailand sees the stepped up process of ASEAN integration as a major opportunity to attract more visitors to ASEAN, according to Mrs. Titiporn Manenate, Director of International Public Relations, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
Addressing a media briefing at the PATA Travel Mart 2016, which took place from 7 to 9 September at the International Convention Exhibition, Greater Jakarta, Indonesia, Mrs. Titiporn noted that this is a very special event because it is the first PTM since the launch of the ASEAN integration process in 2016, and comes just before ASEAN marks its 50th anniversary in 2017.
In January to July, 2016, Thailand welcomed 19.5 million international tourists, up nearly 12 percent, generating around 27.5 billion US dollars (973 billion Baht), up 16.5 percent.
At the end of 2016, TAT expects to exceed our targeted revenue and hopes to reach 50 billion US dollars (1.72 trillion Baht), which will come from more than 33 million international tourists.
For Indonesian market, in January – July 2016, Thailand welcomed 315,690 Indonesian visitors, up 11% over the same period of last year. TAT is projecting 483,000 arrivals from Indonesia in 2016
Many Thais now travel to Indonesia, specifically destinations; such as, Bali and Jogjakarta to visit the famous Borobudur. Similarly, many Indonesians are visiting Thailand to shop, enjoy Thai food, and visit the cultural and heritage spots. Thailand sees enormous opportunities to strengthen the ASEAN integration process via tourism.
ASEAN members have been working together on joint promotional campaigns to promote ASEAN as “One Single Destination.” Aside from strengthening the local economy of each country, it will also strengthen the economy of the whole ASEAN region, in order to attract not only intra-ASEAN travel but also travel to ASEAN from other regions of the world.
Thailand as a whole has a unique geographic advantage as a bridgehead between the countries of southern ASEAN (Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei) and northern ASEAN, (Lao PDR., Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam). It is the only country to share land borders with four ASEAN countries (Malaysia, Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Myanmar).
“In the next few years, we will build on our geographical advantage to enhance accessibility, trade and travel in both the ASEAN and Greater Mekong Subregion. We are already seeing significant growth in overland arrivals from Cambodia, Lao PDR. and Myanmar,” Mrs. Titiporn said.
“Similarly, our neighbours are seeing enormous growth in the number of Thai visitors. All across the ASEAN region and Greater Mekong Subregion, intra-regional travel is on the rise. In many countries, intra-ASEAN visitor numbers account for half the total of international tourist arrivals.”
She noted that Indonesian visitors will be able to use Thailand as a launch pad to visit the neighbouring countries of Myanmar, Cambodia, Lao PDR., and Vietnam, thanks to the land transport connectivity of the Asian Highway, a massive regional network of roads that will open up a broad range of touring options.
In addition, low-cost airlines, which have opened up the floodgates of intra and inter-ASEAN regional travel, have got unlimited opportunities to fly to many more airports in the secondary cities of ASEAN.
Mrs Titiporn also highlighted the TAT’s marketing plan 2017 which is designed to shift the structure and directions of the national tourism industry towards a new value-based offer in order to position Thailand as a Quality Leisure Destination.
“The goal now is to offer “Value for Experience” and focus on “Unique Thai Local Experiences” to create valuable and memorable experiences to quality tourists by creating valued tourism products. This will mean greater emphasis on promoting Thailand through Thai culture, experiences and way of life.
“As part of our quality over quantity approach, we are focussing more on our marketing efforts on niche markets and specific customer segments; such as, Luxury Travel, Honeymooners, Health and Wellness and Sports Tourism.
At the same time, she noted, Indonesia is not just a partner country in ASEAN but also the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation. Hence, Thailand is working to implement a strategy to more strongly position itself as a “Muslim Friendly Destination.”
Last year, TAT invited over 100 travel agents and media from the Islamic countries to attend special forums, travel trade meet sessions and familiarisation trips to various tourist spots of interest to Islamic visitors.
She added, “Many of our shopping complexes are providing facilities for Muslim prayers and halal food is becoming commonplace. We are seeing increasing investor interest in developing Muslim-friendly hotels. Phuket is gearing up to be a halal food centre, and Krabi is positioning itself as a “Dream Destination for Muslims.”
In realising the potential, the TAT Jakarta Office has published a Bahasa Indonesia brochure called “Citarasa Halal Di Thailand”, listing many halal-certified restaurants and hotels in Bangkok, Pattaya, Hat Yai, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Krabi. This will help the growing number of visitors from Indonesia find products and services meeting their cultural and religious requirements.
TAT has also launched mobile applications (iOS and Android) and a mini website of tourism information for Muslim visitors; such as, halal restaurants, etc. You can download the app here: Thailand Muslim Friendly Destination.
Mrs Titiporn also announced that Thailand will host the ASEAN Tourism Forum in Chiang Mai in January 2018.