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Thailand tourism overview for 2009 and tourism goals and trends for 2010

Tourism Situation 2009
The global financial crisis and Thailand’s political turmoil that have been going on since late 2008 have resulted in a decline in the number of inbound tourists, with a decrease of 16% in the first half of 2009. The greatest decline included visitors from Northeast Asia, with a drop of more than 30%, followed by the Americas and Oceania. The ASEAN and Europe markets were affected only slightly, while South Asia and the Middle East were able not only to maintain their market base but to show actual growth.

Marketing Trend
Since August 2009, tourism in Thailand has been showing clear signs of recovery. The number of tourists declined by only 5% in August and switched to a growth of more than 10% in September and October. This dramatic increase continued until the end of 2009. The number of tourists arriving via Suvarnabhumi International Airport between November and mid-December 2009 increased nearly 40%. Charter flights from Europe and Asia to major tourism destinations including Phuket and Koh Samui grew significantly during November and December. From September, there were clear signs of recovery and normalization in all adversely affected markets.

Factors supporting the recovery of the Thai tourism market include:

  • The recovery of the global economy in the third quarter of 2009 was stronger than expected and marked by increased consumer confidence;
  • The Thai political situation became more stable. Despite rumours of conflicts, no major incidents occurred, further restoring confidence in Thailand;
  • The less-than-feared severity of the flu outbreak from early 2009 increased tourist confidence;
  • The government’s economic stimulus measures, such as the exemption of visa fees and reduced takeoff and landing fees, helped/benefited operators promoting Thai tourism;
  • Marketing campaigns implemented by TAT since July 2009 included:
    • Restoring Thailand’s image to enhance confidence among travellers;
    • Advertisements promoting value-for-money visits to Thailand;
    • Roadshows that provided accurate information about the situation in Thailand to senior officials of many governments and tourism operators;
    • Stimulus measures that boosted travel including the Partners on Demand project designed to encourage partners to offer Thailand travel programmes and sales promotional advertisements under the Amazing Thailand, Amazing Value concept.
  • All of the above activities helped stimulate the travel market going forward from August 2009.

Tourism Projection 2009
Given Thailand’s/TAT’s tourism promotion initiatives and the recovery of the world economy, TAT estimates that the number of international tourists for 2009 came close to 14 million, down only 4% compared to 2008.

Tourism Forecast for 2010
The situation for the Thai tourism industry is expected to be more favourable in 2010, as long as no major political crisis occurs. The economic situation of individual countries continues to be the major factor influencing the growth of each target market. TAT expects the number of international tourists to grow at around 7 to 10% to approximately 15.0 to 15.5 million in 2010. 
When considering economic trends and aviation links to key regions, TAT has identified/will be focusing on three key market groups:

  • Group 1: This includes the ASEAN member countries, South Asia, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Iran, Kuwait, and Jordan. Countries in this group are ready to expand and increase their market share, as they have shown positive economic trends throughout 2009 and have had with especially strong market expansion towards the end of 2009. International flights between these countries and Thailand are expected to increase in 2010, both on existing routes and new routes coming on line. In every market, TAT will focus on using a protection strategy for the leisure market. A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategy will be used in Europe.

For the ASEAN market, TAT will focus on Thailand as a holiday break destination by reinforcing Thailand’s unique selling points of value and shopping. A quality strategy will be used for the Middle East and South Asia markets. In the Middle East, Thailand will be branded as a destination offering quality, value and variety, as well as focusing on the health market. For the South Asia market, road shows will be arranged to address new segments and highlight specific target markets, such as/including golfers.

  • Group 2: The key markets in this group are Oceania, Scandinavia, Germany, Russia and Vietnam. This group includes existing markets where the economic situation is likely to be stable or to decline slightly in 2010, and are not expected to show the same levels of growth seen at the end of 2009. The number of flights to these markets is expected to remain at the current level or decrease slightly during 2010. TAT’s goal for these markets is to try and maintain existing levels. The strategy is to focus on quality market expansion in the form of market cooperation with partners outside the travel and tourism industry. These include financial institutions to expand the high-end market as well as stimulate the non-seasonal leisure tourist market.
  • Group 3: This group includes Northeast Asia, the Americas, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). TAT’s goal for this group is to revive a stagnant market base. The number of arrivals from these countries showed the greatest decline during 2009, mainly resulting from a loss of confidence in Thailand as a safe destination, but exacerbated by the severe economic downturn. In 2010, the economic status of these countries should return to normal. Flights, which declined in number during the market slowdown, are now maintaining stable levels. These factors are expected to help bring back market growth to a normal level in 2010. The rate at which these markets will solidify and grow depends upon the economic condition of each country. TAT will maintain these markets by protecting the leisure market and highlighting value-for-money offerings. The Americas market will also be promoted through the network of overseas Thais, online marketing channels, and roadshows for new travel segments.

Domestic Tourism Market in 2009
The domestic tourism market was not particularly affected by the political situation. It was more influenced by the economic slowdown and fluctuating oil prices in the first and second quarters of 2009. Local travellers have changed their travelling habits, are more conscious of travel expenses, and are tending to visit tourist destinations closer to home. The 2009 flu outbreak also appears to have significantly affected Phuket, with a 10 to 15% decline in the number of Thai visitors.

Changing Trends in the Thai Tourism Market
Signs of economic recovery are reflected in an upturn in the Thai domestic tourism sector, which was at its lowest ebb during the economic downturn in the second quarter. The tourism situation has since improved, and became much more robust in the fourth quarter. Factors giving rise to this included: Increased confidence in the economy leading to increased consumer spending on travel, especially on low-cost airlines;

  • Private sector sales promotions to mobilize tourism at the end of 2009, and the introduction of low-cost flights between Udon Thani and Phuket;
  • Activities organized in all regions by the private sector since May toencourage domestic travel in the five regions which all received significant response. They included the Thai Tourism Festival, the Amazing Tastes of Thailand promotional campaign, Ruam Jai Pak Rak Po Luang, the International Balloon Festival, and train tours under the Tour by Train is Fun campaign;
  • Measures to boost tourism by the government sector, such as promoting conventions and educational and study trips within the country, and measures to extend public holidays into more consecutive days.

Estimate for Domestic Tourism by the End of 2009
With TAT collaborating with the private sector during the ongoing economic recovery, it is estimated that there will be about 87 million trips with income from tourism reaching the target of 407,600 million baht.

Marketing Trend for 2010
The Thai economy is showing signs of continuous growth for 2010. In the last quarter of 2009, the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board predicted the economy would grow at 3 to 4% due to the global economic recovery and the government’s Thai Khem Khaeng (‘Making Thailand Stronger’) economic stimulus programme. Rising consumer confidence will result in increasing domestic tourists. This trend was evident in the Amazing Thailand Amazing Value campaign at the end of 2009, which is continuing into the 2010 tourism season and attracting more operators. Thai tourists have responded positively, with a great number contacting the TAT Call Centre and TAT offices to get information when tourism promotional activities were introduced. Another factor that will support domestic tourism in 2010 will be the extension of holidays in April and August.

Sales promotion activities will also be used for tourism marketing in 2010. These include the Thai Tourism Festival, Amazing Two Coasts, Amazing lsan Fair and One Night One Price campaigns. Other tourism activities will be tailored to specific lifestyles and interests, such as train tours, tourism for senior citizens, golf tournaments, tourism with pets and creative music festivals. New tourist attractions and activities that reflect the culture and style of a particular region will also be introduced. For 2010, the target for tourism will be 90 million trips, an increase of 3.38%, with income from tourism expected to reach 430,000 million baht, an increase of 5.5%.

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TravelDailyNews Asia-Pacific editorial team has an experience of over 35 years in B2B travel journalism as well as in tourism & hospitality marketing and communications.