TAT moves quickly to cash in on easing of Hong Kong's 'black' alert
March 31, 2014 00:00 By PICHAYA CHANGSORN
The Tourism Authority of Thailand is embarking on an intensive marketing campaign to lure back tourists from Hong Kong, quickly exploiting the removal of the "black alert" travel warning issued by the Hong Kong Security Bureau earlier this month. The Nati
TAT moves quickly to cash in on easing of Hong Kong’s ‘black’ alert
The Tourism Authority of Thailand is embarking on an intensive marketing campaign to lure back tourists from Hong Kong, quickly exploiting the removal of the “black alert” travel warning issued by the Hong Kong Security Bureau earlier this month. The Nation’s Pichaya Changsorn reports from Hong Kong.
THE TOURISM Authority of Thailand is cheered by the decision of Hong Kong’s security body to lower its travel alert from “black” to “amber” immediately after Thailand’s Cabinet cancelled the Bangkok state of emergency on March 19. TAT Governor Thawatchai Arunyik said he was very confident that tourism arrivals from Hong Kong, which had been on a rise during the past few years, would quickly recover.
The Thai tourism boss was speaking at a media interview held during his visit to Hong Kong to conduct a roadshow for briefings and to help match up Thai and Hong Kong tourism-business operators.
TAT officials described the Hong Kong travel market as “come fast and go fast”.
After massive anti-government protests by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee started in Thailand last November, the Hong Kong Security Bureau placed a “red alert” on the Kingdom, which caused the number of Hongkongers visiting Thailand to shrink by 27 per cent in December.
That number continued to fall by 24 per cent in January and 64 per cent last month, as Thailand announced the state of emergency in its capital and the Security Bureau raised the travel warning for Bangkok to “black”.
The “black” alert is the most severe because insurance companies will not cover travellers to affected areas, in this case Bangkok. The alert also affected travellers who wanted to visit nearby places such as Pattaya and Hua Hin, because they still had to land at Suvarnabhumi Airport, which is in the Greater Bangkok area.
Titiporn Manenate, director of TAT’s Hong Kong office, said the authority expected Hongkongers to resume travel to Thailand quickly, because they usually don’t require long lead time to make their travel decisions, thanks to Thailand being only two hours’ flying time away.
Furthermore, Hong Kong tourism services are no less cheerful at seeing the “black alert” cancelled because Thailand is also an important market for them, typically contributing 20 per cent of their total incomes.
The TAT has set a target to maintain the number of Hong Kong visitors at last year’s level, about 580,000 for holders of Hong Kong passports and 690,000 including other residents of the city. For the whole of 2013, the number of Hong Kong tourists visiting Thailand rose 23 per cent year on year to 581,871, thanks to the sharp rise of Hong Kong visitors before the start of Thailand’s political turmoil late in the year.
Jecholiah Wong, product development executive at Farrington American Express Travel in Hong Kong, who attended the TAT roadshow, told The Nation he was quite positive on the TAT’s recovery plan because airlines and hotels were also very aggressive in their campaigns to lure Hong Kong tourists back to the Kingdom.
“Actually Hong Kong travellers like Thailand very much. If the safety concern is off, I think there won’t be a big problem,” he said.
Mutakan Srithongsook, executive assistant manager of two resorts in Krabi, Red Ginger Chic and Pakasai Resort, said the TAT was on the right track with the travel products it had designed for Hongkongers. “Hong Kong travel agents are apparently showing much interest and immediately responding to sell Thai travel products.”
He said a lack of direct flights from Hong Kong to Krabi had made it difficult to attract tourists from the city to the southern seaside province, nevertheless.
Srisuda Wanapinyosak, TAT’s executive director for East Asia, said that as about 80 per cent of Hong Kong tourists were not first-time visitors to Thailand, the country needed to develop new travel products and services to keep them coming.
The new products the TAT is aiming at Hong Kong tourists include sport tourism such as Muay Thai and rock climbing; wedding and honeymoon packages; young-traveller products such as local design and cultural courses; “office lady” products such as fashion, health and beauty treatments; and eco-tourism.
To divert impacts from unfortunate events that may recur in Bangkok in the future, the TAT aims to put more emphasis on “destination branding” to create distinctive identities for other destinations outside the capital, in the same way as Indonesia has successfully branded Bali, she said.
At present, 80 per cent of Hong Kong tourists visiting Thailand come to Bangkok.