The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is gearing up for its 60th birthday celebration come next year. Once acknowledged as the most savvy tourism organisation not just in Asia but the world over, it has unerringly always had its finger on the pulse of tourism and, for years, has surpassed tourist expectations in terms of its deliverables. The ‘Amazing Thailand’ campaign has been one of the most successful marketing initiatives ever, prompting neighbours such as Singapore, Malaysia and now Vietnam to indulge in a flurry of like activities. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Thailand ranks among the world’s 10 most visited destinations and TAT is expecting foreign arrivals of approximately 40-million in the year 2019.
However, times are a-changing and with it, so are tourist demands. Travellers are now lured more by the concepts of sustainable and responsible tourism. In a bid to control the ravages tourism can wreak on Nature, the TAT has, for instance, curtailed visitors to Maya island and is directing its efforts to promote community-based tourism with the Association of Thai Travel Agents. Furthermore, it is also initiating a ‘Responsible Thailand’ award to promote nature conservation. In a recently released statement, TAT averred to making travel and tourism the most economically promising, environmentally sustainable and culturally vibrant sector for the country in the years to come.
TAT’s prediction for 2020 is at 42-million foreign arrivals spending US$77 billion. It is planning to focus on middle-to-upper income groups and is tapping new as well as existing markets with its ‘Go New Customer’ initiative. TAT also plans to: ‘go low’ (by managing seasonality); ‘go local’ (by marketing new products such as local cuisine, homestays and suchlike) and ‘go digital’. However, industry players worry that this may not entail quality tourism, given the proliferation of low cost airlines to the destination, as also the performance of the baht to the dollar, which brings in the middle level rather than high-end travellers.
It remains to be seen whether the TAT can rise to the challenge in its 60th year of glory. Given that Thailand has much going for it and that the TAT is constantly exploring and promoting new destinations, as also the fact that the Thai hospitality industry collectively offers the most competitive prices that are truly value for money, it may well be that the TAT will pull this one off too.
Written by : Punam Mohandas