Thailand’s hotels, tour operators and meetings companies need to move their marketing from the national level down to city, language or demographic niches if they want to be more successful in reaching tourists from India or Russia, say industry experts.
Industry operators need to avoid the “sin of over-generalisation” and closely observe visitor behaviour in order to create rewarding travel experiences that visitors will talk about when they go home, said Prof Philip Pearce of James Cook University in Queensland.
He made the comment in an address to 50 industry leaders including TAT executives at a seminar held by the local chapter of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata) in Bangkok on Monday.
“Listen to the stories they tell and don’t just rely on satisfaction indexes,” he said. “Successful marketing now requires the ability to provide an ‘experience economy’ that is in tune with generational changes, sustainability and new technology.”
Prof Pearce said that “techpacker havens” were increasingly important – places where travellers, luxury or budget, can plug in social media devices, use large screens, hold Skype conversations with families back home, download music and service mobile and social devices.
Monday’s seminar focused on a market Pata has dubbed the “RICHI” countries – Russia, India, China and Indonesia.
Ravi Bhatia, director of Indian Host, an India-focused hospitality group in Bangkok, called for Thailand and India to “reconnect” their deep historical and cultural similarities.
“The number of Indian tourists visiting Thailand could easily double in two or three years,” he said.
However, Thais need to pay more attention to Indian culinary and wedding needs. “Tofu isn’t found in any Indian restaurant,” he said. “And don’t present vegetarian food to look or taste like meat – Indians will not choose it.”
He recommended that Thailand concentrate on the Indian wedding market and having Bollywood films made on location in the country.
Andrey Snetkov, the contract and marketing manager of Pattaya-based TEZ Tour, which specialises in the Russian market, said 90% of trips to Thailand were still arranged by Russian travel agents as the online booking and credit card networks in Russia were still not trusted.
He lamented that many Russian travel agents lacked first-hand experience of Thailand so their recommendations to clients were frequently ill-informed. Familiarisation trips for travel agents are an important way to remedy this.