Thailand faces losing tourists to neighbours

Thailand faces losing tourists to neighbours

Interest, air travel rising for CLMV area

Tourism buyers and sellers are negotiating deals at Thailand Travel Mart Plus, which ends today in Chiang Mai.
Tourism buyers and sellers are negotiating deals at Thailand Travel Mart Plus, which ends today in Chiang Mai.

Expanding air traffic to the region could lead to lost travel opportunities for Thailand in the future as tourists fly directly to Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV), say foreign tourism buyers at the Thailand Travel Mart Plus in Chiang Mai yesterday.

Travel to the Mekong region is growing thanks to greater air access and interest among travellers in the rapidly developing area.

Low-cost and full-service airlines from India, Singapore, Malaysia, the Middle East and China have commenced new routes and increased flights to regional destinations to meet growing market demand.

Tourism analysts from the Mekong region said it is becoming a more attractive destination because of greater air access and improved water and land transport infrastructure.

Authorities for the region are working together to define specific brand identities to promote travel to the region, with Cambodia leading in the area of heritage product management, Myanmar in local experiences, Laos in self-driving tours, Vietnam in luxury cruises and Thailand in lively metropolitan and food experiences.

For example, Indian tourists have loved to visit Bangkok and Pattaya for years, but now are considering Krabi, Hua Hin and Chiang Mai because of more direct flights, said buyers at the travel mart. Indian travellers are expected to flock to other nations in the region as more seats become available.

"Travelling from India to Thailand and the Mekong region is 50% cheaper now than going to Singapore or Europe," said Vikrant Bhardwaj, an executive of north India-based Trans Destinations.

The top destinations for Indian tourists are Thailand, the Middle East, Europe, Singapore and Malaysia.

The Mekong region is also becoming more popular with the European market as these travellers love to experience local culture and adventure activities like hiking and river cruises.

Bartosz Gosztyla of Poland's Super Tramp Adventure and Travel said Polish tourists usually come to this region from October to April and July to August for the food, kind people, unique culture and events.

"I have 40 appointments with sellers in Southeast Asia during this event in Chiang Mai," said Mr Gosztyla.

Duanratchada Chimphalee, director of sales and marketing at Mekong Cruise, said she is working to promote cruises on the Mekong River as well as attractions in Laos to international markets.

There is a growing market for experiences from tourists from France, Germany and Switzerland. India, South Korea, Brazil, the Middle East and mainland China are also promising markets, she said.

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