INTERNATIONAL VISITORS 14.8 MILLION (EXPECTED) IN 2007; ASIA PACIFIC ARRIVALS GROW AT 7.6% A YEAR; TOP FIVE VISITOR MARKETS ARE MALAYSIA,
JAPAN, KOREA, CHINA AND THE UNITED KINGDOM; UNITED KINGDOM TO SEND 1-MILLION PLUS VISITORS BY 2009; RUSSIAN FEDERATION IS FASTEST
GROWING INBOUND MARKET
Asia Pacific continues to drive Thailand arrivals
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) expects 14.8 million visitors in 2007, up from 13.8 million last
year. However, the Pacific Asia Travel Association's (PATA) 2007-2009 preliminary forecast shows 14.1
million is more likely, while annual growth should be steady at 7.3% over the next two years.
According to PATA, Asia Pacific countries will continue to provide the bulk of Thailand's visitors,
with an average annual growth rate of 7.6% to top 11 million out of the predicted total arrivals for 2009.
"We have to promote the
best of Thailand to
compete with the other
countries around us who
are giving us stronger
Authority of Thailand
The Russian Federation remains the fastest growing regional market, with visitor numbers soaring
from 102,783 in 2005 to 174,976 this year, and this is predicted to
climb annually by 18% to hit 243,680 in 2009.
PATA predicts Malaysia to maintain its position as Thailand's
top contributor in 2007 with 1,402,450 visitors, barely edging out
Japan's 1,401,910. However, Malaysia's numbers will move forward
8.1% per year, while Japan's growth will stagnate at 3.8%. It should
be remembered that much of Malaysia's arrivals numbers come from
cross-border traffic for reasons of work or visiting friends and relatives.
Korea, China and the United Kingdom will stay third through
fifth, the only other countries sending 1-million-plus visitors by 2009,
while Australia will close in on this mark, with impressive annual
growth figures of 16.5% and an estimated 951,640 visitors by 2009.
European numbers are set to climb 6.5% per annum from this
year's 3 million to 3.4 million in 2009. However, Germany's growth
rate of 2.6% will not keep pace with its neighbours with an expected
506,182 visitors in 2007 and 532,866 in 2009.
Arrivals from Scandinavian countries will continue to grow
healthily over the next three years and are predicted to deliver
741,542 visitors by 2009 with Norway and Finland producing growth
of 21% and 12.2% respectively according to PATA.
Visitors from the US are expected to total 739,500 this year, with 846,814 arrivals expected by
2009 or a growth rate of 7% over the next two years.
GLOBAL AND REGIONAL COMPETITION
Destination rivalry mounts for Thailand
Thailand is surrounded by competitors looking to grab a piece of the regional and global tourism pie,
with Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia all experiencing double-digit growth in arrivals.
"The picture is completely different now than from 15 years ago when Thailand was the place to
come," said Pacific Asia Travel Association chief executive officer, Peter de Jong.
"Now people who have been to Asia two or three times are looking for something different. The
playing field is crowded and consumers want choice and new experiences."
For TAT governor, Phornsiri Manoharn, marketing provides part of the answer.
"We have promoted Thailand in the
Middle East for the past 10 years together with
hoteliers… but this year there were nine new
countries that exhibited at Arabian Travel Mart
for the first time. Countries such as China,
Taiwan and Macau are all competing with us."
Dusit Group chief executive and chairman
of the Thai Hotels Association (THA), Chanin
Donavanik, added: "The destinations Thailand
is in competition with are looking at the issues
we face and capitalising on them, and taking
advantage of the areas where we know there is
an issue but are not doing anything about it."
Though Ms Phornsiri tries to remain
upbeat, this is often difficult for the private
sector, which continues to face obstacles.
Swiss International Air Lines general
manager for Thailand, Laos, Myanmar,
Cambodia, Vietnam and chairman of the
Thailand Board of Airline Representatives
Brian Sinclair-Thompson, said: "In other Asian
countries such as Singapore and Kuala
Lumpur there are incredible incentives to fly
into those markets. In Thailand there is nothing
Tourism industry to remain pillar of
Thailand's travel and tourism industry will contribute
6.7% (567 billion baht) to the country's gross
domestic product (GDP) in 2007 and continue at
this rate for the next 10 years to reach 1,256.4
billion baht in nominal terms by 2017, according to
the World Travel and Tourism Council's (WTTC)
2007 Tourism Satellite Accounting study.
The study said travel and tourism demand in
Thailand will generate 1,706 billion baht in
economic activity in 2007, and this amount will
more than double to 3,943 billion baht over the next
10 years. This reflects an anticipated growth in
economic activity of 5.3% per year through to 2017.
The WTTC report stated that, as an export,
Thailand's travel and tourism sector is expected
to generate 12.6% of the GDP (765 billion baht)
in 2007, and increase to 1,833 billion baht in
2017, but for a slightly smaller portion of the GDP
In 2007, the travel industry accounted for
an estimated 1,946,000 jobs in Thailand
representing 5.3% of the country's total
employment. According to the WTTC report, this
number should reach 2,157,000 by 2017.
Thailand's overall travel and tourism economy
employed an estimated 4,110,000 people in
2007 or one in every 8.9 jobs (11.3%), and this
is forecast to reach 4,767,000 (11.8%) by 2017.
Thailand's travel and tourism sector
should also attract 206 billion baht in capital
investment this year for 8.5% of the nation's
total, and the WTTC predicts this figure will climb
to 511 billion baht (9.3%) by 2017. Government
expenditure on the industry is expected to tally
27 billion baht in 2007 for 2.7% of the national
budget and increase to 51.2 billion baht (2.8%)
TAT MARKETING PLANS
Tourism body has clear marketing vision
In early July this year, the TAT announced the
realignment of its marketing strategy to provide a
clearer positioning of the country's tourism
"We have to promote the best of Thailand
to compete with the other countries around us
who are giving us stronger competition," said
TAT governor, Phornsiri Manoharn.
"The first and most important change that
we have made is to reinforce the 'Amazing
Thailand' slogan that proved so successful in
1998-99. It underscores the image of Thailand
as a peaceful, hospitable country and a yearround
tourism destination with high-quality,
value-for-money products and services.
This will remain our marketing slogan for the
The TAT governor also revealed that
Thailand's tourism products have been
reclassified into seven categories under the
theme "Seven Amazing Wonders" to market each
in a clearly focussed and segmented manner:
• Thainess: Experience The Art of Thai Living –
traditional Thai hospitality, lifestyles and
cultural tourism products.
• Treasure: Land of Heritage And History –
world heritage sites, historical attractions,
temples and museums.
• Beaches: Fun, Sun, Surf and Serenity of Thai
Beaches – Thailand's ever popular beach
• Nature: Encounter the Sheer Beauty of Thai
Nature – national parks and soft adventure/
• Health and Wellness: Land of Healthy Smiles
– medical tourism and Thailand's worldrenowned
spas and health resorts.
• Trends: Excite Yourself With a Myriad Thai
Trends – boutique hotels, shopping centres,
dining and nightlife.
• Festivities: Enchant Yourself With
International Festivities In Thailand – the
sanuk factor, international events and popular
For the upcoming year, Ms Phornsiri said:
"The core focus will be on attracting quality
tourists with high yield. We will also be spending
a lot of time and effort to enhance our e-marketing
abilities through the vast online networks,
including websites, blogs, discussion forums,
travel clubs, and mobile phone messages,
especially to reach high-end target groups
in places like Japan, Australia and the United
Sophisticated branding would bolster
Thailand's tourism industry has matured over
the past 10 years, but several setbacks – from
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
and Avian Bird Flu, to the tsunami and political
unrest – have taken their toll on the country's
"The image of the country is suffering from
adverse publicity," said media and branding
agency Keen Publishing (Thailand) managing
director, Mr David Keen. "But all of this could be
mitigated with strong, credible print, web and
most importantly, publicity branding."
Thai tourism has come under fire in the past
for its vague positioning and inconsistent
message. "Thailand needs to freshen its image.
The country should employ a professional
branding agency to revise and define its core
DNA and then apply this logic to solid, thorough,
design applications," Mr Keen added. He said that
designs should "synergise with a well-informed,
intelligent web application that allows the user to
discover the truth about the country."
Mr Keen said the country's imagery should
be clean and imaginative, and "professionally
orchestrated TV commercials should take
advantage of the wealth of creative talent
available in the Kingdom to show off the multidimensional
abilities of Thai people."
Though TAT covers the overall marketing
direction of Thailand, tour operators play a
significant role in publicising and selling the
country's tourism products. However, their
individual marketing efforts often miss the mark.
"Change the focus of content from Pattaya and
Phuket to the wealth of alternative destinations in
Thailand such as Chiang Rai, Krabi and the
national parks," Mr Keen said. "Content should
be intelligent, credible and not full of bland
superlatives. The tone of Thailand's messages
should evolve to be crisp, intuitive, and enable
the reader to get a true understanding of the
country's numerous assets."