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Monday, 12 March, 2018, 17 : 44 PM [IST]

‘We want visitors to know more about Thai way of life and local culture as well as Thai hospitality’

Santi Chudintra, Deputy Governor, Asia Market, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and Soraya Homchuen,
Director, TAT Mumbai Office, talk to Sumit Jha about destination Thailand, its positioning among the Indian traveller and promotion plans.

QWith 1.4 million Indian tourists visiting Thailand in 2017, an increase of 18% over the previous year ,what are the targets for this year in terms of number of tourists and the tourism receipts from India?
Santi C. Thanks to the increased number of direct flights from India to Thailand from many second tier cities last year we recorded double digit growth from the Indian market, both in terms of number of tourists and tourism receipts in 2017. This is an 18% growth in number of tourists and 14% growth in revenue. For this year, we hope to see the same growth rate, preferably higher growth in revenue than number of tourist arrivals. We would like to increase the spending of Indian tourist in Thailand to 16 to 18% in 2018.

QIn light of the increased competition from other destinations in the region, how are you going to ensure that the numbers are achieved and Thailand continues to be a favoured tourist destination for Indian travellers?
SC. TAT offices in India need to work closely with our partners to ensure that Thailand is well promoted and can compete with other destinations or can grow along with other destinations in Southeast Asia. We may need to discuss with the airline partners in the operation of more direct flights to Thailand from second tier cities, which we can see the high potential for overseas trip to increase number of first time visitors to Thailand. At the same time we need to create awareness about new destinations or new activities that repeat visitors to Thailand from metro cities can still explore when they revisit Thailand. There are still many attractions and experiences waiting to amaze our guests whenever they come to Thailand.


QYour new campaign “Open to the new shades of Thailand” aims to pay more attention to unique local experiences. Tell us more about what is in store for the visitors?
SC. For Open to the New Shades of Thailand marketing concept, we look at two dimensions. The first dimension is the new segments of the target customers; Thailand is open to the tourist from any race, gender, age and nationality. The segments that we see the potential are Gen Y and millennials who are driven by digital social media and customer-focused activities, lady travellers who have more spending power, multi-generation/family trip which is the trend for modern family to bond their relations by taking a vacation in Thailand wherein they can find plethora of activities for different generations. Secondly, we look at new products that TAT would like to promote to international tourists which includes gastronomy tourism that highlight our culinary heritage, luxperience from the boutique resorts, upscale restaurants, rooftop bars, well equipped yachts and cruises, and memorable wedding event and honeymoon trip.

QNew destinations and experiences are being promoted with an aim to provide the visitors a different experience. Tell us more about the new destinations.
SC. We plan to increase awareness on new tourist destinations in Thailand further than the current popular destinations that Indian tourists have already seen. Since most of the tourists visit Thailand for beaches and islands, we would like to introduce new destinations in the East Coast of Thailand such as KoSamed in Rayong province, fruit orchards in the eastern part of Thailand can also be the stopover point on the way to the Island, tourist can visit the fruits orchard and try different kinds of Thailand tropical fruits especially between May to June which is the high season for fruits in the eastern part of Thailand such as durian, rambutan, mangoesteen and marian plum. You can see the plantation and sometime you can select or pick the ripe fruits from the tree directly. Further to the Southeast, tourists can visit Chanthaburi which is also a province with many national parks both on the land and the sea. Ko Chang in Trat province is the second largest island in Thailand that has a lot of activities for tourists to enjoy and spend some good time with their families and friends. We would like to increase the opportunity for tourists to participate in the local experience in the smaller cities in Thailand to know more about Thai way of life and local culture as well as Thai hospitality.

QWith an existing large bouquet to offer to the tourists, are the new destinations being targeted at engaging repeat visitors?
SC. Initial target for new destinations can be the repeat visitors but it is not limited to this group alone. The first time visitors can also visit these new destinations as well if they would like to combine the new destination such as KoSamed with Pattaya which is a popular destination for first time visitor in the same trip.

QWhat is the component of repeat visitors to Thailand from India and what kind of increase is being targeted from this segment?
Soraya H. From statistics of 2015, repeat visitors from India were around 46% and first time visitors were around 54%. Repeat visitors mostly are business and leisure travellers. It’s good to have high proportion of repeat visitors to our country because this can indicate that tourists are satisfied with their experience in Thailand and want to come back again. Most of repeaters are those who live in the metro cities and travel abroad several times in a year. However, we also need to increase the number of first time visitors from smaller cities as well to reach out to the new potential customer such as Gen Y, first jobbers, women traveller, and school trips.

QSecurity has lately been a big concern for tourists across the world. Any special steps being taken in this direction to ensure that the visiting tourists are safe?
SH. Thailand is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia; therefore, safety of tourist is the main concern of the Royal Thai Government. There are tourist police departments that send out police to patrol in main touristic areas. The Ministry of Tourism and Sports also has Tourist Assistance Centre set up at the international airport and many other areas that are popular among international tourists. While travelling in the car or bus, all passengers are required to fasten the seat belt for safety reason and for water sports activities which are common for most of tourists in Thailand, they are required to wear life jacket at all time while on board the boat, jet ski parasailing or while they do snorkeling. Public Boat service to islands will be not available if the weather forecast department sends out the warning messages on expected storm.

QThe travel trade in India seems to have been favouring destination Thailand primarily due to its proximity and value proposition. With the focus now shifting to high spending tourists visiting Thailand, could there be a setback for the traveller with limited budget?
SH. According to the Open to the New Shades marketing concept, Thailand is open to all types of travellers to visit the country since we have variety of attractions, wide range of accommodations from luxury 5-6 stared resorts and hotels to budget hotels and airbnb. There are activities that can be enjoyed by high-end tourist e.g. yachting, golfing, hot-air balloon riding, helicopter tour, but at the same time budget traveller can spend their quality time in Thailand to explore many interesting experiences such as trying a Thai cooking class or just take a street food tour, taking a (public) boat tour along the Chao Phraya River, visiting the local Thai villages or communities where they can learn about the Thai way of life and culture or just relax on the white sandy beach with a good book and enjoy Thai massage. Therefore, I don’t think it will be a setback for the traveller with limited budget. Thailand has something for everyone who comes to search for it.

QAny specific promotions planned for the travel fraternity in India to augment the numbers and increase awareness about the new unexplored destinations?
SH. TAT is planning a mega fam trip for agents and media from India to visit the east coast area where we will focus as the new routes that need to increase awareness and make them appeared in the itinerary to be recommended by the agents in the next 2 years. This route will include Rayong Chanthaburi and Trat provinces. Apart from beaches, island hopping and water sports activities, tourist can visit local communities that are strong enough to manage tourism on their own as an additional source of income for their families.

QNow that your term as the head of Indian market is coming to an end, what would you call as the most rewarding experience for you as the head of TAT in India?
SH. I still have around 5 months more till the end of July this year to work as the Director of TAT Mumbai Office. The most memorable experience may come by the end of my term in India since I feel that I will find something new, learn some new lessons and meet some new friends in everyday of my work in this position. It was my choice to come to India as a tourist before I knew that I will come to work here. It was a challenge for me to promote Thailand as a destination for Indian tourists since Thailand cannot compete against India neither in size, variety of culture, abundance of natural resources and wildlife, nor in the number of World Heritage sites. However, the number of Indian tourists to Thailand increased gradually year by year during the past 3 years of my term and I hope in this 4th year the growth will be higher than the previous year. Actually it’s not only me who promotes Thailand in India market, TAT also has an office in New Delhi to take care of the North and the East parts of India. Moreover, with the support of media, agents, wedding planners and friends in India, Thailand can be one of the most preferred destinations for Indian tourist. This will be the most rewarding experience for me.

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