TAT targets Eastern European market in bid to boost yacht tourism
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) aims to increase yacht tourism from Europe, especially from landlocked Eastern European countries.
Srisuda Wanapinyosak, deputy governor of international marketing for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas at the TAT, said yacht tourism is growing and Phuket is a hot destination.
She said the TAT is targeting several countries with strong potential in Eastern Europe, namely the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.
Even Italy, a country famous for yacht tourism, will receive attention from the agency.
"Our TAT office in Prague received many enquiries from Czech residents about the possibility of sailing on yachts to visit Thailand," Mrs Srisuda said.
Travellers holding boating licences have cruised their own yachts or chartered ships to the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman coast, where Phuket has several marinas such as the Royal Phuket Marina, Phuket Boat Lagoon and Royal Ao Po Grand Marina.
Phuket reports some 1,500 yachts and cruisers embarking at local berths each year.
The TAT will also arrange activities for tourists to experience the local lifestyle, such as riding long-tailed boats in canals during their stops to learn about local life.
Eastern Europe is a strong market, with arrivals from the region growing to 523,000 visitors last year, up 9% from a year earlier.
Tourism receipts from the region grew by 23% to 36 billion baht. Based on statistics of the Tourism and Sports Ministry, some 11 billion baht of the bills went to hotels and accommodation, followed by food and drinks (8.2 billion baht) and souvenirs (7.3 billion baht).
Mrs Srisuda said several travel operators from Eastern Europe participated in Thailand Travel Mart Plus (TTM+) 2019, which ended yesterday in Pattaya.
Some emerging markets in attendance at the event included South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Latvia, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
The TAT is also striving for other marina tourism products, including cruisers.
But Mrs Srisuda acknowledged that Thailand needs to speed construction of dedicated ports for embarking cruise ships, which now have to dock at cargo container ports.
"There are cruise lines in the US that have expressed an interest in adding Thailand to their travel itineraries, but they want Thailand to improve port facilities for travellers," she said. "They also want the TAT and locals to provide attractive onshore tour packages when passengers alight."
Mrs Srisuda said that while Thailand's tourist figures are on track to reach 41 million visitors this year, several markets have encountered challenges, such as the Brexit crisis which has caused tourists from the United Kingdom to become more price-conscious.
Considering this condition, the TAT has joined with Thai restaurants and airlines to offer value-added tourism packages under the "Thailand For More" campaign in London from June to August.
The agency also plans to use marketing promotions to attract arrivals from emerging markets in Africa and South America that have no direct flights to Thailand.
The TAT is working with leading airlines in the Middle East such as Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines, enabling passengers to have a special stopover in Qatar and enjoy a one-day trip before or after their Thailand vacation.