Thailand’s largest B2B travel trade show opened for business today in a positive atmosphere marked by a strong rebound in visitor arrivals in the first half of 2015 and an upbeat outlook for the second half.
Designed primarily to help the kingdom’s small and medium sized enterprises gain valuable marketing and networking opportunities, the Thailand Travel Mart Plus (TTM+) 2015 has attracted a turnout of 362 buyers from 50 countries and 374 sellers from Thailand, Lao PDR., Cambodia China, Vietnam and Myanmar. Of these 167 (46.13%) are first-time, and 195 (53.87%) are repeat buyers.
The exhibitors’ line-up is dominated by hotels, especially the many exquisite boutique properties coming up nationwide. The buyers’ contingent is dominated by tour companies from China, India and the UK as well as emerging markets; such as, Belarus.
In her opening statement at the welcome dinner, Minister of Tourism and Sports H.E. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said, “The Thai tourism industry is set for a promising future thanks to increased arrivals projected from China, India and the ASEAN countries, all of which are in our immediate neighbourhood. Also, in the first quarter of this year, we have seen a good sign for long-haul markets; such as, Latin America and the USA, Southern Europe, Germany and France.”
According to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, the preliminary figure of Thailand‘s tourist arrivals from January to 25 May, 2015, is around 11.95 million (+19%), which generated about 578 billion Baht.
In January-March 2015, China is surging ahead as the top source of visitors with 2.03 million arrivals, up by 96% over the same period of 2014.
In 2015, TAT has set a target of 28 million visitors, generating around US$42 billion (1.4 trillion Baht) in revenue.
The entire TTM+ is saturated with the “Discover Thainess” campaign slogan. This global marketing and promotional campaign highlights the experiences offered by the Thai way of life, Thai culture and hands-on Thai activities; such as, Thai boxing, Thai massage, Thai cooking, and Thai classical dance.
In line with that campaign’s slogan, the theme of the welcome reception was “From Folk Kitchen to Royal Cuisine” which featured a variety of Thai cuisine, widely considered to be one of Thailand’s strongest selling points and a true reflection of Thainess.
The TTM+ theme, “Experience with Us”, also fits in with the “2015 Discover Thainess” campaign, reflecting the idea that travellers want to “experience” and learn something new to satisfy a deeper need for participation, creativity, community and idealism.
On the opening day, the TTM+ included two educational forums for the foreign buyers and Thai sellers.
Mr. Matthew Zatto, Manager, Destination Marketing Organisations, Southeast Asia, for TripAdvisor outlined how the world’s largest online travel site has revolutionised the way travellers make decisions and provide feedback on their experiences. He offered a number of tips on how exhibitors at the TTM+ could better use TripAdvisor’s extensive distribution and viewership to enhance their marketing opportunities.
Mr. James Bell, Sales and Marketing Director – Turquoise Holidays, UK, cited new trends in the UK’s luxury honeymoon market, noting that Thailand was a hugely popular destination for the hundreds of young UK couples who get married every year. He said niche markets; such as, weddings and honeymoons held considerable promise but required the highest levels of service standards and value for money. Thailand is well known for both, Mr. Bell said.
Also, a specialist selection of 10 pre- and post-tours have been organised to highlight the best of “Thainess” products and services. Many points are being featured for the first time at the TTM+; such as, biking tours, a home-stay experience in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ayutthaya, Street Food Tours, visit to a mask-making museum in Loei province, and much more.
Another important component of the TTM+ will be the 12 “Hidden Gems”, all emerging new destinations renowned for their unique history, culture and lifestyle that tourists must not miss, especially repeat travellers.
Complementing the new destinations is the focus on niche-market customer segments; such as, weddings and honeymoon, health and wellness, green tourism, culinary tourism, shopping, sports tourism, river cruises and yachting.
This year, for the first time, TAT will organise the “Muslim Friendly Destination Mega FAM Trip” by inviting about 100 travel agents and media from Islamic countries to the TTM+. They will participate in special forums, travel trade meet session, product presentations and familiarisation trips to places of interest to Islamic visitors.
TAT will also launch mobile apps (ios and android) and a mini website of tourism information for the Muslim market; such as, Thailand’s halal restaurants and hotels