THE TOURISM Authority of Thailand is going ahead with its plan to hold "Thailand Travel Mart 2014 Plus" (TTM+) from June 4-6, even as a political cloud remains over Bangkok.
“The show must go on,” said Srisuda Wanapinyosak, TAT’s executive director for East Asia.
She said Thai tourism operators could not afford to stand still at this difficult time. In fact, the event would be a good platform for them, mostly small and medium-sized enterprises, to communicate with worldwide clients and improve their understanding of the country’s political situation.
The event will be held at Impact Arena, Exhibition and Convention Centre, and so far 259 vendors of tourism products plan to attend. TAT projects about the same number of participants as last year’s 398, and about the same number of potential buyers, mainly foreign. So far, 113 buyers have confirmed they will join in.
The deadline for the early-bird registration fee of Bt30,000, a saving of Bt5,000, has been extended to February 20 from January 31 to compensate for the inconvenience caused by the anti-government campaign in Bangkok.
Srisuda said the event would be a good chance for SMEs with financial limitations to promote themselves without spending a lot of money to go abroad. TTM is regionally recognised for attracting potential foreign buyers of tourism products.
The three-day event is themed “Experience with Us”. Highlighted products are in four categories: honeymoons and weddings, eco-tourism, health and wellness, and “the Thai experience”. The fourth category includes such things as cooking schools, boxing camps, and community-based services.
Srisuda said foreign operators would remain positive on Thailand’s tourism industry despite the prolonged political unrest. She acknowledged that some markets in Asia, especially mainland China and Hong Kong, were being hit hard, but said TAT had worked even harder on strategic marketing to lure tourists back via subsidy packages adopted by overseas tour agencies.
China is a good example. Given the political problems in Bangkok, TAT will encourage them to go to Pattaya and the eastern provinces instead. Charter flights from Chinese cities will land at U-tapao International Airport. In addition, Samui and Chiang Mai will be destinations of choice to avoid the beleaguered capital.
Juthaporn Rerngronasa, TAT’s deputy governor for international marketing (Europe, Africa, Middle East and the Americas) and also acting deputy governor for domestic marketing, said the political problem had reminded her agency to put more importance on the domestic market, and not rely too heavily on foreign tourists. The domestic market still has much potential. Also, spending power among people who enjoy tourism is still good.
In some Western markets, there have been signs of a decline in interest in coming to Thailand after the state of emergency was declared in Bangkok last month. This is especially true in Eastern Europe, where people are waiting to see how the situation develops before deciding to visit.