Monday, July 14, 2008

Short-haul travellers in TAT's sights

More businesses asked to pitch in

Chatrudee Theparat

An intensive plan is afoot at the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to lure foreign visitors from the short-haul market next year, as high oil prices may deter long-haul travellers.

TAT governor Phornsiri Manoharn said one goal was to entrench branding of Thai tourism products as a way to create loyalty among foreign tourists.

Strategic partnerships with private corporations will be an important element. More than 1,000 companies will be encouraged to team up with the agency to offer discounts to visitors.

The agency also plans to partner with 100 wine shops in South Africa to print Amazing Thailand logos on wine boxes and offer wine buyers the chance to win tours to Thailand.

Africa is a growing market, with the number of visitors from the region expected to increase by 7% to 112,500 this year and 117,200 next year.

A partnership with Beer Chang is also planned to hold draws for trips to Thailand for those who buy tickets for the English Premier League football club Everton, which Chang sponsors.

As well, 500,000 tourism value cards featuring discounts for foreign visitors will be distributed to visitors from target markets including Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Scandinavia.

According to the governor, the promotional programme to attract foreign arrivals is expected to cost about 1.47 billion baht out of the TAT's total 4.4-billion-baht budget.

High oil prices have prompted the TAT to trim its forecast for foreign arrivals to 16 million next year, a decrease of one million. That would be an increase of only 3.36% from 15.48 million forecast this year. It also cut its projection for 2009 revenue to 630 billion baht, a 5% gain from 2008.

According to the TAT's forecast, strong growth would come mainly from Asean and South Asia. Growth in long-haul visitors from Europe, the US, Oceania, and the Middle East is expected to be slight as oil prices push up travel costs (see chart below).

Apichart Sankary, the president of the Thai Travel Association, urged operators to focus on the right groups, especially for niche markets. For example, he said, young tourists in countries such as Japan, Korea, Singapore, and Dubai would become an increasingly important market.

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