Operators urged to think digital

Tourism businesses need to understand and cover various online marketing channels to catch up with fast-moving trends in the industry, according to a survey by Google Thailand.

It found Thai marketers must catch up with new tourism trends via online channels.

The survey found domestic tourism interest rose to 2,500 searches a minute in January compared with 1,300 searches a minute in 2011.

Searching via mobile increased 10-fold from 2011, as the number of smartphone users here has jumped to 20 million.

This trend has prompted the budget airline Thai AirAsia (TAA) to put most of its content and promotions online.

TAA said 85% of its bookings now come from online channels, up from 40% in the first year of operation nine years ago.

"Online bookings are projected to increase to 90% in four or five years," said chief executive Tassapon Bijleveld Bijleveld.

Last month's Business Insight with Google reported five stages of travellers' behaviour _ dreaming, planning, booking, experiencing and sharing.

Ariya Banomyong, Google Thailand's country business manager, said 85% of Thai travellers search for tourism information online, while 47% of Thai tourists use smartphones when planning a trip.

However, most still prefer to book via a PC or laptop.

Google found nine out of 10 business and leisure travellers use the internet every day, while more than 80% connect via mobiles.

Sharing travel experiences on social networks such as Instagram and Facebook is popular among Thai travellers, which helps other people to dream about taking a trip, the first stage of actual travel.