Thailand must offer "cool and exciting" tourism products if it wants to lure young Japanese travellers, suggests Japan's leading travel agency.
It said Chatuchak Weekend Market should be promoted as a trendy place for these travellers.
"Marketing gimmicks and efficient promotion of the right products are necessary if the Thai tourism agency wants to attract these travellers," Tsuyoshi Ando, the manager for travel marketing and strategy at JTB Corporation, said in an interview at a tourism expo in Tokyo last week.
He gave his comments upon learning the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has decided to target young Japanese travellers.
As in other countries, Japanese youngsters are naturally attracted to new things and trendy fashions and look for places that meet these needs.
"Online channels are a popular source for them to prepare their vacations, but there's still not much website information about Thailand tourism," said Mr Ando.
He said neighbouring countries have embarked upon "vivid and fascinating" tourism marketing ploys.
For example, Vietnam offers around-the-clock tailoring for its national costume, the ao dai, for tourists, and this has become very popular among Japanese teenagers.
Mr Ando said South Korea promotes Seoul's Myeongdong Market as a trendy shopping area for youths, so Thailand could focus more seriously on Chatuchak as a shopping paradise for teenagers.
The TAT should also beef up the name of Khao San Road among Japanese backpackers now that it is already popular among Western tourists, he said.
And Thailand may be proud of its spa industry, but Japanese youths think of Bali first when they think of spas.
Mr Ando said Thai International Airways' termination of non-stop service between Tokyo's Narita airport and Phuket is having a negative effect on Thai tourism.
Phuket is a popular beach town among Japanese travellers, but connecting to another flight in Bangkok is inconvenient.
Mr Ando said this is putting Thailand at a disadvantage to other countries such as Malaysia, which provides low-cost flights to and from Japan.
Yoshinobu Shibata, the managing director of Tour Network Ltd, said the number of young Japanese travellers visiting Thailand has noticeably declined in recent years on domestic political problems and last year's flood crisis.
"It's not easy to woo Japanese tourists to Thailand, as most of them are technology geeks. If products don't resonate with them, then it's quite difficult to attract them," he said.
The TAT plans to boost annual tourism revenue to 2 trillion baht in 2015, but observers wonder if this is even possible, given the small budget it has been allocated.
Last year, US$10 million was budgeted for tourism advertising and public relations.
Nittaya Aumbhitaya, the TAT director in Tokyo, said her office is dusting off plans for the Japanese youth market with the aim of building sustainable tourism, as these people will turn into adults.
The TAT will organise familiarisation trips for travel agents, media representatives and even teachers to visit Thailand to learn about Thai culture and related activities.
Mrs Nittaya is confident Japanese teenagers will opt for Thailand thanks to its unique culture and friendly people.
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- Writer: Chadamas Chinmaneevong