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Monday, 01 September, 2008, 10 : 00 AM [IST]

Thailand: Creating the right mix for different tourism markets

Having a simple approach towards marketing the destination in the B2B space, Tourism Authority of Thailand has innovated their marketing strategy to promote the lesser known destinations, new niche markets and training programmes, reports Krupa Vora
When Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) opened their office in New Delhi in 2004, the marketing strategy focused on establishing a presence for both the organisation and for Thailand in the minds of travel agents and the media. The tourism board established personal contacts with the travel trade and conducted product presentations to cash on the opportunity. It also maintained consistent presence in the media through print advertising. When the new office was opened, TAT concentrated more on setting up the office along with a Business to Business (B2B) approach. “The budget allocation in the initial years, was much less than the one allocated right now,” said Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, Director, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). The tourism board opted for a low-tech approach by making sales calls and meeting people and inviting them on familiarisation (FAM) trips to Thailand whenever possible. TAT concentrated highly on promoting Bangkok and Pattaya and mass tourism activities like shopping and dining.

0114_ms_2.jpgTapping smaller cities
Thailand’s marketing strategy has dramatically shifted in the last couple of years. The main reason is the phenomenal growth of the Indian economy, which, in turn has catapulted outbound traffic to never-seen-before levels. The tourism board is now cognisant about the fact that India’s wealth is not just confined to the larger cities but also spread across Tier II and III cities in the country. It is working to reach out to travel agents in the Tier II and III cities by making sales calls, product presentations and joint promotions. Markets like Lucknow, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Chennai are targeted among other Tier II and III cities to make in-roads to this market. “Having a firm foundation in the metro cities, we are now targeting the Tier II and III cities. Smaller cities are a new battle ground for almost all tourism boards mainly because these cities are rich in cash flow and are willing to travel,” added Ayudhya. To strengthen its presence on all India level, TAT appointed Charson Advisory Pvt. Ltd., to promote the destination in the West, Central and South Indian markets in late 2007.

New destinations, new niche
Most of the agents in India promoted only Bangkok, Pattaya and Thailand. TAT has also strategically started promoting the lesser known destinations like Krabi, Koh Samui, Hua Hin, Chiang Mia etc apart from Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket. Catering to the demand of Indian travellers and getting more diverse in nature, TAT has now started promoting new niche segments such as Wedding Tourism where Indians go to Thailand and conduct all the marriage ceremonies. It has also promoted spa and wellness in a big way thus promoting Medical Tourism in the country. It has also been promoting the Meetings, Incentives, Convention and Exhibition (MICE) groups to Thailand. To cash in on the MICE movement, TAT will closely work with the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau.

0114_ms_3.jpgSpecialist programme
To educate travel agents and keep them abreast with newer products, TAT this year launched a three-day training workshop titled ‘Amazing Thailand Champion Agents Training Programme’. India was the second country in the world after the US to adopt this programme. The programme in India was intended to be more interactive thereby enhancing the existing relationship between suppliers and the travel trade. “If the budget permits, we will conduct this programme twice a year,” stated Ayudhya. Apart from this, the tourism board actively started promoting tourism through outdoor advertising campaigns in cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, Varanasi and Gaya. The advertising campaign in Mumbai and Bangalore highlighted the beaches while in Varanasi and Gaya, the Buddhist route was showcased.

In the long run, TAT will strengthen its presence by opening an office in Mumbai. However, this development will materialise in the year 2010. The Mumbai office will take over marketing activities for South and West India and Sri Lanka. “The Mumbai office will significantly heighten our marketing capabilities in the subcontinent and we will look at appointing representatives in other markets in India,” concluded Ayudhya.
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