THAILAND TOURISM MARKETING – MAPPING THE FUTURE FORUM PROVIDES INSIGHTS INTO KEEPING THAILAND COMPETITIVE AS A TOURIST DESTINATION

Bangkok, May 31, 2011 — The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), in collaboration with the Thailand Chapter of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand (JFCCT), and Skal Thailand held a highly successful forum, Thailand Tourism Marketing — Mapping the Future, on May 19th.

Over 320 key stakeholders from the travel and tourism sector joined the one-day event to provide input into shaping the future of Thai tourism. Keynote presentations and breakout roundtable sessions explored four major themes: strengthening Thailand's brand image, promoting sustainable tourism, e-marketing and social media, and reputation management.

"With increasing competition in the global tourism sector, Thailand must protect its position as a leading destination for travellers. The many insights and suggestions that the participants offered during the forum will be valuable in helping the TAT to develop policies and strategies to ensure the future success of Thai tourism," said TAT Governor Suraphon Svetasreni.

During the welcome address, speakers representing the organizing committee highlighted the importance of state and private sector collaboration. They cited the Thailand Tourism Marketing — Mapping the Future forum as being an example of collaborative marketing with its four partners coming together to discuss relevant tourism issues and illustrate the power of collaboration. Members of the media were also recognized as co-creators in Thai tourism.

The morning session of the forum included several keynote speakers. Professor Zhang Guangrui, Director, Tourism Research Centre of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) Beijing, China, discussed promising areas for increasing the number of tourists from China. Mr Tim Riches, Chief Growth Officer Asia Pacific for FutureBrand, said Thailand needed to maintain its strong brand positioning in the future through value enhancement including product leadership, cultural exports, professional leadership and greater synergy across key investments. Dr Thomas Bauer of the School of Hotel and Tourism Management, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, explained how achieving sustainable tourism is a continuous process that will require Thailand to ensure all components of tourism to work harder to ensure their activities are sustainable. Dr David Beirman, Senior Lecturer — Tourism, University of Technology, Sydney, covered how Thailand can manage its reputation when facing situations that can have a negative impact on tourism. Mr Tiwa York from the Omnicom Media Group talked about the increasing importance of social media in tourism. Dr Frank Go from the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, ended the keynote session by providing his vision of the road ahead for the Thai tourism industry.

The Thailand Tourism Marketing — Mapping the Future forum broke out into four interactive sessions that gave all participants a chance to contribute their own comments and ideas.

Participants in the Strengthening the Thailand Brand discussion led by Mr Tim Riches took on the task of defining “identity” in a competitive market, and identified five key areas of focus for future branding campaigns. These are:

  • Thainess as conveyed through the spirit of welcome, the celebration of festivals, and cultural products such as Muay Thai boxing and Thai food;
  • Wellness encompassing spas, health, rejuvenation and meditation as the main themes;
  • Natural environment featuring the mountain, jungle and beach landscapes as physical experiences;
  • Listing on the PATA Thailand Chapter online member directory
  • Support from a highly respected global organisation that stands up for the travel and tourism industry in both the good times and bad
  • Value for money when it comes to the range of quality experiences that Thailand offers.

Leading the Promoting Sustainable Tourism brainstorming session, Dr Bauer reiterated that for many destinations, the major issue for Destination Management will no longer be to attract increasing numbers of tourists but how to manage them once they have arrived and how best to achieve environmental, economic and socio-cultural sustainability. Participants identified the following key priorities for achieving and nurturing sustainable tourism:

  • Promoting closer collaboration between all parties, namely TAT, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, other state agencies, local communities, in addition to other tourism stakeholders, including individual citizens and tourists. All those involved in tourism need to work harder to keep their activities sustainable.
  • Raising awareness and promoting Green Education to all stakeholders, especially the younger generation;
  • Leveraging information technology and social media to promote sustainability;
  • Effective enforcement of existing laws.

In the e-Marketing and Social Media session led by Mr Tiwa York, participants identified coordinated marketing and industry collaboration as being the key priorities. Under coordinated marketing, the recommendations proposed include:

  • Forming a task force to spearhead digital marketing education to ensure that Thailand becomes globally competitive in this field;
  • Introducing digital marketing award programmes to recognize outstanding digital marketing initiatives being undertaken in the tourism industry and offering incentives for the industry;
  • Developing B2B and B2C online resources for tourism. Under industry collaboration, the key recommendations include:
  • The formation of a collaborative task force to spearhead the construction and promotion of digital platforms for sharing and collaboration within the industry; encouraging tourism stakeholders to share best practices via online channels and social media, such as LinkedIn, and leveraging online tools to get everyone working to promote Thailand.
  • Creating endorsed digital media opportunities.

Dr David Beirman led the interactive session on Reputation Management. The key priorities for building and maintaining a positive reputation with identified stakeholders as proposed by participants during the brainstorm include:

  • Identifying a credible and articulate spokesperson who in times of crisis is capable of communicating succinctly to the media the facts involving a situation in real time;
  • Stepping up the use of testimonials, especially interviews with local expatriate residents, respected individuals, and repeat visitors, as well as comments by individual visitors, posted on social media, such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, to inspire confidence in the destination;
  • Strengthening relations with embassies;
  • Promoting Thailand as a destination for women, families and children.

Mr Bert van Walbeek, Chairman of the PATA Thailand Chapter, said: “The big turnout and the high quality ideas exchanged were very encouraging. Based on this, the Thai tourism industry has a very bright future. The Chapter, Skal and the Joint Foreign Chambers look forward to continuing our full and unified support for the TAT.”

The internationally-focused input from the forum will be balanced by the input that the TAT receives from other stakeholders, such as domestic tourist associations. Insights gained from these seminars and workshops will be integrated into the TAT’s marketing initiatives for 2012 through to 2016. The TAT will continue to collaborate with key stakeholders to further develop tourism to Thailand.

Governor Suraphon added: "As Thailand looks to stay competitive as a leading global tourist destination, we need to see the big picture in the positioning and international marketing of the kingdom. The many insights gained from the Thailand Tourism Marketing — Mapping the Future forum will ensure that we are heading in the right direction. The valuable feedback from participants will also help the TAT to develop policies, strategies and plans to ensure the future success of Thai tourism.

"By balancing both international and local perspectives on the kingdom's tourism sector, the TAT can plan for sustainable tourism growth while strengthening Thailand's position as the destination of choice for millions of travellers from all over the world," said Governor Suraphon.

International Public Relations Division
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