Since 2015, Yuthasak Supasorn has been leading the Tourism Authority of Thailand. The Governor was previously executive vice president and chief financial officer of Thailand’s MCOT, a state broadcaster, bringing fresh marketing ideas that he highlights for ITB Berlin News. We asked him how tourism has been recovering in Thailand after the events of recent years.
In 2016, international tourist arrivals to Thailand totalled 32.58 million, up 8.91% over 2015. International tourism revenue also exceeded the target to €43.9 billion up by 13%. This number shows that despite various incidents, Thailand’s tourism is always bouncing back rapidly. This year, we are targeting €48.2 billion in international tourism income.
How are your source markets evolving?
China is now our leading source market with 8.87 million visitors in 2016, up 8.72%. Other top markets include Malaysia (3.53 million visitors, +3.11%), South Korea (1.47 million visitors, +7.46%) and Japan (1.43 million visitors, +4.14%). Cross border arrivals are also up, with double-digit growth from Lao PDR, Cambodia and Myanmar. Overall, Asia- Pacific is now our biggest and fastest growing market. This will have major implications for the way we do marketing. In Europe, Russia recovered strongly with arrivals of 1.06 million in 2016, up 19.8%.
Please tell us more about your marketing efforts and how you work with the travel trade.
TAT is positioning Thailand as a “Quality Leisure Destination”. We then develop a wide range of tailor-made quality products emphasising “Unique Thai Local Experiences”. They fit travellers’ particular interest of travellers and niche markets, especially high-end tourists. We now promote Thailand in many European secondary cities and create new opportunities to intensify work with the travel industry. To introduce visitors to our “Unique Thai Local Experiences”, we recently set up the “LINK Project”, which mainly looks at strengthening l o c a l c o m m u n i t i e s ’ capabilities to attract international travellers. TAT’s overseas and domestic offices work together on promoting and expanding local tourism. Thailand will attract many international events in 2017. Among them are the World Travel and Tourism Global Summit 2017 on 26- 27 April, 2017 in Bangkok or the Destination Wedding Planners Congress held on 2-4 May, 2017 in Phuket. We also work on marketing initiatives with ASEAN countries. Thailand Travel Mart Plus (TTM+) between 14-16 June, 2017, in Chiang Mai will integrate Greater Mekong Subregion countries in order to enhance the linkages with our neighbours. This will be followed by the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2018 to be held also in Chiang Mai in January 2018.
How do airlines integrate your marketing efforts?
We work closely with airlines. We signed a landmark agreement with Etihad Airways to promote Thailand in priority markets including the UAE, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Egypt and Kuwait. With Taiwan-based Eva Airways, we formalised a MoU for joint promotion towards the USA and Canada. We also collaborate with Bangkok Airways as it serves many secondary destinations such as Chiang Rai, Lampang, Sukhothai or Trat.
How important is ITB Berlin as a platform for Thailand on the international tourism stage?
We are participating in ITB Berlin to enhance the awareness of Thailand as a “Preferred destination”, aiming to offer quality products together with “ U n i q u e T h a i L o c a l Experiences”. We are here to update the trade with our theme “Discover Amazing Stories in Amazing Thailand” and help them to understand what makes us unique. The European market remains very important to us because it has the highest length of stay, more than twice the overall average. This explains why Thailand has been exhibiting at ITB Berlin in the last 43 years