First held in 2013, Thailand’s Luxurious Pleasure roadshow series is an addition to its staple annual roadshow. While the bigger annual roadshow targets nearly every travel agent in the Indian market, Thailand being a destination of widespread appeal, the Luxurious Pleasure series is a meeting place for buyers and sellers with a focus on high end holidays. The target audience includes agents who sell staple five-stars, to travel agents who simply add a few touches of luxury to an otherwise regular itinerary and those whose itineraries include private islands and helicopter rides.
Three years later, the 2-city initiative is now a 4-city initiative. Its first edition was held in Mumbai and Delhi and since then Bangalore, Kolkata and Ahmedabad have joined the fray. Moreover, visible changes in buying behavior have been noticed. This includes a growth in the number if travellers opting for 5-star hotels and villas and a good response to market promotions with prices in the range of INR 80,000 to INR 150,000 for a week-long holiday. Today about 25% of the Indian market is checking into luxury hotels and above (villas, private islands and yachts) and this is up from barely 10% when TAT first launched its campaign to target the luxury segment.
Of course the sea change in Thailand perception and the spending patterns it has attracted cannot be credited to a once-a-year, on-ground, B2B effort alone. Although the travel trade does ink great deals at the Amazing Thailand Luxury Roadshows, the annual event has been part of a 360° approach to owning a sizeable share of the luxury travel market in India. This year the tourism board invested in hiring TV host Anusha Dandekar as brand ambassador to drive the interest of high end women travellers and in golfer Vani Kapoor in order to tap golf travel. TAT has devoted budgets and efforts towards television commercials (complete with an India-focused ad featuring Anusha Dandekar enjoying a thrilling bachelorette getaway in Thailand) and radio. Social media contests, influencers trips and fresh India-focused content that high end travellers can relate to have all invited a focus from the tourism board over the past few years.
Why is Thailand focusing on luxury? “It is about strategy, sustainability and streamlining the industry with quality as a focus,” said Soraya Homchuen, Director, Tourism Authority of Thailand – Mumbai office.
Thailand welcomed 1.06 million Indian travellers in 2015. For 2016, the target is 1.1 million – a figure that the destination looks like it is on track to achieve having hit over 700,000 Indian arrivals by August. But more importantly TAT wants to grow high end’s share of the pie by another 5%. A change in the ratio of men: women travellers is also part of destination goals. “Women comprise 23% of the market currently and for this year we would like to bring this up to 30-35%,” Homchuen said. She concluded saying, “We have to balance our qualitative and quantitative growth as we go forth which I think is also beneficial to the travel agent and I am counting on the support of the travel trade towards this effect.”