Increased budget for tourism in Thailand fails to reassure tourism professionals

BANGKOK, Thailand (eTN) - Thailand Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajjiva has designated tourism as a national priority.

Increased budget for tourism in Thailand fails to reassure tourism professionals

BANGKOK, Thailand (eTN) – Thailand Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajjiva has designated tourism as a national priority. As such, the prime minister has announced his administration will provide up to 55 percent of the new stimulus package to revive tourism. This translates to a 71.5 million additional financial allocation.

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The tourism sector is currently facing a serious downturn due to a combination of unfavorable factors such as the worldwide economic recession, internal political instability and more recently the H1N1 flu outbreak. The latter event starts also to take its toll on Asian travel intentions with Thailand recording over 500 cases of swine flu as of June 18.

However, the financial shot into Thailand’s ailing tourism is far of generating enthusiasm from travel professionals. According to the Nation newspaper, three associations–the Association of Domestic Travel (ADT), the Thai-Chinese Tourism Alliance and the Thai-Japan Tourist Association–have complained at the House committee on tourism about the lack of funds being made available to fight the downturn. According to the Nation, the ADT president complained that the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank of Thailand (SME) has so far lent money only to profitable business despite government’s promises to help the entire tourism sector. ADT feels that the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) does also not fulfill its role by doing only public relations, which does little to help tourism business.

TAT recently launched a new marketing strategy that looks more at tourists’ travel intention rather than geographical segmentation. In a recent press conference at the Thailand Travel Mart (TTM), Juttaporn Rerngronasa, deputy governor for Marketing Communication, detailed the travelers category identified by TAT:
– “Ready to Travel” Markets include countries such as India, Russia, Indonesia as well as the Gulf area and Scandinavia. These markets are not sensitive to the Kingdom’s political situation, still have considerable purchasing power, and are inclined to travel.
– “Potentially Returning Visitor” Markets, which covers most of Europe and the United States. People in these markets are inclined to visit Thailand but are more concerned about the political situation. They are also more affected by the global economic downturn and are becoming more value-conscious.
– “Concerned Traveler” Markets include China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam and Australia. Despite their close proximity, these markets are far more worried about the Thailand’s political situation and are currently affected by the economic slowdown. People in these markets still consider Thailand a convenient tourist destination but have some reservations about returning.
– The most difficult to target are the “Highly Sensitive Traveler” Markets, which include three of the tops Thailand incoming visitors sources: Japan, Korea and Taiwan. People there are extremely sensitive to Thailand’s political instability. They also suffer from a biting recession.

According to Rerngronasa, Thailand will work out customized campaigns on a segment-to-segment basis. “It will be pointless to launch a big consumers’ campaign to “Highly Sensitive Travelers” and some “Concerned Travelers” markets. We will instead focus more on PR, Media activities or targeting niche markets such as young people or golfers,” the deputy governor said.

Greater marketing activities with additional budget resources are however forecast for countries where the opinion is more favorable to travel to Thailand.

“We look also to intensify online marketing for all markets around the world, especially to promote our good value for money through ‘Amazing Thailand, Amazing Value’ campaign,” said Rerngronasa.

Arrivals already decreased by 19 percent for the first three months of the year forcing the Tourism Authority of Thailand to look back at its 2009 forecasts (latest estimations put at 12 million the number of tourists for this year).

Rerngronasa, however, remains confident about medium term perspectives. “We are still perceived as a very welcoming country offering excellent value for money and with a population keen to welcome all visitors. Thailand continues to be on top of the world’s preferred destinations in numerous surveys,” she explained, adding that they are encouraging signs from new markets such as the Middle East -up by 11.5 percent this year- or India -up by over 3 percent.