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JNTO gets into the offensive in Thailand

A huge delegation of some 15 prefectures and a dozen of Japanese tourism companies were present at the TITF (Thailand International Travel Fair) from August 15 to 18 in Bangkok following the recent announcement by the Japanese government to relax visa rules for Thailand. An opportunity to speak with Kazuhiro Ito, Executive Director of Japan National Tourism Organisation in Bangkok, about future JNTO strategies on the Thai market.

What are your expectations following the abolition of visa request for Thai nationals to Japan?

Karuhiro Ito – It is excellent news to us. Thailand is one of Asia’s largest inbound markets for Japan as there is a keen interest among Thais for our country. Market grew last year by 50%. We were expecting 20% growth this year. But following visa relaxation rules with Thai being now entitled to come without a visa for a stay of less than 15 days, we are now thinking that market will grow by 80%.

Do you see already first changes in the Thai travel market towards Japan?

K.I. – We are experiencing an increase into air services between Thailand and Japan. Thai Airways international opened recently flights to Sapporo and they told us that they would soon launch flights to Hiroshima and then to Sendai. The information was confirmed to me by the president of Thai Airways that we recently met. They are even talk to possibly fly as well to Okinawa. Jet Asia Airways is also a new carrier which will offer from October regular charter flights from Bangkok to Tokyo Narita.

Is there any change in JNTO promotion strategy for Thailand? Is your budget on the increase?

K.I. – We are still in our financial year 2012-13 but I expect to see our promotion budget to increase substantially as Thailand is certainly turning into a major inbound market for us. We will soon have an advertising campaign in Bangkok skytrain, plans also to increase advertising in media. We are also looking at organizing a travel fair towards FIT in November. However, I do not have the details yet where and when it will be hosted in Bangkok.

What type of Thai traveller do you now target and which products are getting popular?

K.I. – We look at the youth market and also particularly the individual Thai educated woman over 30 years old. They are now more independent and they generally feel extremely comfortable with Japan, as they deeply appreciate its culture, its food or its fashion. We look also at families especially for the snow segment as we promote ourselves as a country with four seasons. Thais are very keen to enjoy snow, just for the fun to play or create snowmen. However, they are not that keen to practice ski and it might take another ten years before Thai start to really enjoy skiing. Among other popular products for Thai are shopping activities, food but also more classical products such as the discovery of sakura landscapes in the spring time.

You mention earlier about youth travel. Are they any specific action planned towards this market?

K.I. – Japan pop culture is of course very popular with young generations. We want then to answer their curiosity towards Japan by launching an app for smartphones with information in Thai language. We work now on that project.

Luc Citrinot

Luc Citrinot a French national is a freelance journalist and consultant in tourism and air transport with over 20 years experience. Based in Paris and Bangkok, he works for various travel and air transport trade publications in Europe and Asia.