Tourism Authority of Thailand says it will strengthen Thailand’s tourism by highlighting four niche markets – ecotourism, golf, weddings and honeymoons, and health and wellness at the 12th Thailand Travel Mart Plus (TTM Plus) Amazing Gateway to the Greater Mekong Sub-region.
TTM Plus (Thailand Travel Mart) will be held 5 to 7 June, at Bangkok’s IMPACT Muang Thong Thani Exhibition Centre (อิมแพคเมืองทองธานี). Priority has been given to sellers from four niche markets as the objective is to showcase Thailand as a market leader in these specialised segments through the theme “Customise your Experience”.
TTM majors on Thailand’s travel products, but links them to neighbouring destinations hence the official name Thailand Travel Mart plus Amazing Gateway to the Greater Mekong Sub-region.
TAT governor, Suraphon Svetasreni, said: “The authority’s priority remains unchanged. We will promote niche-market tourism as we move into a new era of marketing and development. This year, it will be more evident than ever as the entire structure of TTM+ is geared towards this strategy and connecting the right buyer to the right seller.”
The ecotourism niche has its roots in a long-term commitment in the country’s travel and tourism industry to be more conscious of its environmental responsibilities. TAT has for years been undertaking environmental production activities and projects such as the Green Leaf Certification Programme, and the 7 Greens Concept, with an aim to promote environmentally-friendly tourism.
Diversity in Thailand’s eco-tourism products linked to its natural resources is a vital asset of the country, but it is still important for the travel industry to develop more environmentally friendly destinations.
Ecotourism activities focus on the following areas:
Specialised travel agencies offer cycling tours mainly half-day trips near Bangkok in places such as Nonthaburi’s Kred Island, Ayutthaya, or Samut Songkram’s Amphawa. Tours reduce the use of vehicles and offer participants an opportunity to touch base with rural communities on the outskirts of Bangkok. There are also more serious multi-day biking holidays that focus long distance cycle trips throughout the country with links to neighhbouring countries.
Thailand is a habitat for both migratory and residential bird species. There are hundreds of different types of migratory birds from northern and western Asia. Birds are abundant in Thailand with more than 990 species having been identified.
The majority of birds are found in forested national parks, or sanctuaries such as Khao Yai National Park (Nakhon Ratchasima, Saraburi, Prachinburi and Nakhon Nayok), Phetchaburi’s Kaeng Krachan National Park, and Chaiyaphum’s Phu Kheao Wildlife Sanctuary. But bird watching trips can be organised practically anywhere with interesting species spotted close to Bangkok including elegant fish catching storks just 30 km north of the capital.
Based on the principle that individual cultures and environments are worth conserving, this kind of tourism attempts to put visitors in touch with local traditions, values and communities so they can see for themselves the different lifestyles. Travellers can stay overnight in a village, join rural people in their daily life of planting and harvesting crops, or fishing in rivers. Or perhaps even joining fishing trips on the Gulf of Thailand. At the same time, the hosts can learn about visitors’ country, traditions, occupations and lifestyles.
It represents a convenient transport mode for visitors to glimpse the way of life of traditional Thai people and to see historical sites which stand close to river banks.
There are many ways for visitors to explore the various rivers that are important trading channels running through the heart of the country. Tour boats particularly converted traditional wooden rice barges, offer dinner cruises along the Chao Phraya River as well as longer trips upriver from Bangkok to Ayutthaya.
This activity provides the benefit of building a healthy lifestyle and a mode of travel that is friendly to the environment causing minimal damage to marine ecosystems.
Some of the most spectacular sites for sea kayaking/canoeing are in South Thailand and include Phang Nag’s Phang Nga bay, Surat Thani’s Khao Sok and Satun’s Tarutao National Park.
It is a relatively new sport in Thailand and is considered an adventure with hundreds of choices such as abseiling on 70- metre high cliffs, team building, rope climbing, rock-climbing on specially designed walls or real-time cliff climbing around Thailand.
Where to climb: Pa Ngam Adventure Town and Mountain Lodge Nadi in Prachinburi; Greenery Khao Yai Resort and Suansri Kanok Porn Resort in Nakhon Ratchasima; Fair Tex Sport Club in Pattaya; and Railey in Krabi.
In Chiang Rai: Boomerang Rock Climbing Park, 2 Km west on Soi 5 , from Ban Nam Lat, Huai Chomphu, Chiang Rai, 57000. Tel: 085-525-5435 (Ken)
Weddings and Honeymoons
Weddings and honeymoons are now a top revenue earner for Thailand’s specialised travel agencies and hotels prepared to go the extra mile to offer service.
According to TAT governor Suraphon Svetasreni, one of the TAT’s key marketing strategies is to position Thailand as a top weddings and honeymoons destination. The highest success rates in this market segment have been recorded in India, China, Korea, Japan, France, United States and the United Arab Emirates.
The United States and European markets are strong in honeymoon markets for several destinations across Thailand and this is mainly due to TAT pushing more packages and campaigns via channels like social media and websites such as www.honeymooning-in-thailand.com.
With the value of more than US$20 billion, the Indian wedding market alone is growing at 20% to 30% annually and an important source of business for Thailand. Thailand is attractive to Indians because the country offers exactly what Indian couples are looking for such as value-for-money and a strong appeal as a desirable venue for a celebrity style wedding.
Thailand is around 30% to 50% cheaper than sites in India. It also has similar beliefs and traditions making it easier to organise ceremonies. Other strong points include a hospitality culture, highly skilled staff in area such as flower arrangement or ice carvings. Short travelling times of around 2.5 to 3.5 hours from major airports in India to Bangkok or Phuket is another key factor.
Indians are also compulsive shoppers so once they are in Thailand they will use the occasion to go shopping on the sidelines of the ceremonies and banquets.
China is another important market for weddings. TAT considers the Chinese market as a high potential market in terms of volume. Also Chinese travellers stay on average 7.95 days and spend Bt4,862.24 per day, per person. There are over 150 scheduled flights from China to Thailand a week.
TAT has highlighted seven destinations that are suitable for weddings and honeymoons: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Krabi, Phuket, Hua Hin and Pranburi in Prachuap Khirikhan and Samui Island in Surat Thani province.
There are several adventure themes that can be used to make a wedding unusual such as rock climbing — exchanging vows while dangling from a cliff at Rai Le Beach in Krabi province or an underwater wedding ceremony held annually in Trang province. Those who prefer a traditional wedding should head north to experience a Lanna-style wedding on elephant back or sit in a horse-drawn carriage in Lampang province.
Golf is already a major player in Thailand’s sports tourism business, but the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s vision is to grow this lucrative sports niche to new heights. Golfers will make a beeline for five major golf destinations; Bangkok, Phuket, Hua Hin, Pattaya and Chiang Mai.
Golf tourists spend an average of Bt100,000 excluding flights – three times the average of other tourists. They spend most of it on their sport honing their game skills and even shopping for the latest gear. The surge in golf tourism to Thailand will ultimately make the country Asia’s
most popular destination for foreign golfers based on one simple fact – its quality courses that still have room to accommodate visitors. It means serious golfers can during the weekdays go round a popular course in four hours flat. Thailand is already catching up on the world leader in golf tourism, Spain, which attracts almost a million visits a year.
Other top golf destinations are Scotland, Ireland and the United States all leading the pack, but Thailand can catch up even though air travel time for players is much longer from the big source markets.
Once on the greens, the cost of playing is lower, but probably the key factor is Thailand’s relatively crowd-free courses, all 260 of them, just 60 fewer than Spain, 200 fewer than Scotland and 100 less than Ireland.
Australian golfers represent 10% to 15% of the market mix that is still led by Europe at 65%, but a stronger Aussie dollar is helping to build demand.
But it is just a matter of time for Japanese, Taiwanese, Korean and Chinese golfers to take the poll position. Europeans favour golf visits during the November to March winter, while Asian golfers travel year-round.
Most of the 260 golf courses are up to scratch to host tournaments, including internationally renowned Honda LPGA and the Royal Trophy – Europe vs. Asia Golf Championship. Golfers recognise the course designs of former top rated golfers Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Greg Norman, Pete Dye and Robert Trent Jones Jr.
Golf is a year-round sport in Thailand, but is really enjoyable in the cool and dry months of November to February.
The summer season, from March to late May, is not ideal, but avid golfers just set the alarm clock one hour earlier and do nine holes before the sun starts to take its toll on performance.
During the rainy season, from July to October, downpour can be severe, but they rarely hold up a game for more than an hour.
In Bangkok, there are several courses around the city and its suburbs, mostly within an hour’s driving time. Some of these are rated top courses that have hosted international tournaments.
Pattaya, Hua Hin, Phuket and Samui all have excellent coastal courses. If golfer prefers natural courses that follow a hilly terrain then they head for northern destinations Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. There are excellent courses in the Northeast starting in Nakhon Ratchasima and in Kanchanaburi near the River Kwai to the west of the country.
Health & Wellness
People are living longer due to improved health and medical treatments. They are more concerned about climate and a boom in information technology means faster pick up of ideas and the ability to source travel ideas that will improve lifestyle.
Medical tourism is just one part of the wellness industry that extends to spas, heath farms and lifestyle and diet regimes all designed to improve quality of life. It earned around US$35 billion in 2009 and should increase to US$58 billion in 2012, a growth rate of 20% yearly.
Thailand is a top player in medical tourism, especially in Asia. It excels in six areas: modern medical technologies; professional doctors; easy access to medical treatment providers; reasonable prices and excellent hospitality and recovery care.
Thailand is also a great destination for a holiday and this has been capitalized on by hospitals. They offer professional treatment and the patient and family can also enjoy a holiday.
According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s research on the marketing potential of medical tourism in 2010, there were five important players in the region: Thailand; India; Singapore; Malaysia and the Philippines. The market value of health-care providers in this region was 10% market share, worldwide. And it is estimated that in 2012, the market value in this region will reach US$9 billion or 15% market share.
Thailand has 17 Joint Commission International Hospitals (JCI accredited) and over 200 hospitals that meet the International Organisation for Standards of Hospital Treatment Services. There are also 3,000 specialist clinics as well as around 600 quality spas. Popular destinations for medical tourism in Thailand are Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, Samui Island, Pattaya and Phuket.
In terms of treatment, Thailand is a leader in dental care due to its quality service and reasonable treatment costs. Others well-known areas are dermatology, lasik plastic surgery, sex reassignment surgery, fertilisation, bone marrow stem cell and cardiology.
As this market generates high revenue, TAT has various campaigns to ensure medical tourism, health and wellness rise to the top of market niches. According to research, visitors seeking medical treatment stay longer, spend more and are usually seeking specialised treatments that are more cost effective in Thailand such as plastic surgery, dermatology and medical checkup and medical treatments.
The spending is also higher when compared with other tourism sectors such as the leisure market. On average a medical tourist spends Bt130,000 with 40% spent on medical treatments and another 60% on travel and accommodation expenses.
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