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Beating economic slowdown, UK visitors to Thailand remain buoyant

Many UK tourists enjoy leisure and beach activities, soft adventure, scuba diving, snorkelling, trekking, visiting historical places, and learning Thai cooking.

LONDON – The United Kingdom is now Thailand’s second largest market out of Europe. In January-June 2013, Thailand welcomed more than 410,538 UK visitors, up 3.07 percent over January-June 2012. Given the recent economic conditions in the UK, that is a very acceptable result. In 2013, TAT is projecting 838,000 visitor arrivals and earnings of 57 billion Baht from the UK market.

In January-March 2013, UK visitors had an average length of stay of roughly 17 days per person per visit, well above the 10-day average of all visitors to Thailand. Their average daily expenditure is 3,800 Baht or about (£75) which generated a total of about 16 billion Baht or about (£317 million) in foreign exchange revenue.

In recent years, British visitors have begun coming to Thailand all year round rather than just in the winter months, as was the case in the past. This shows that TAT is making progress in its efforts to reduce the seasonality factor. Another interesting statistic from the UK market is that in 2012, a total of 65 percent were repeat visitors, one of the highest of all nationalities.

Most UK visitors remain in the 25-34 age bracket. By far the vast majority state their purpose of visit as being holidays (90%), meetings (0.98%), incentives (0.10%) and conventions (0.23%).  

As such, the TAT marketing team in London works closely with service providers and tour operators to provide more ‘learning’ tour programmes to British visitors.

On the aviation front, as of October 2013, there were 26 direct scheduled flights per week between Bangkok and London being operated by four airlines – THAI Airways International, British Airways, Qantas and Eva Airways. Other airlines also bring visitors to Thailand through other points of the UK and intermediary hubs like Dubai, Doha, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc. In addition, TUI Thomson plans to launch a weekly charter flight on the Birmingham to Phuket and Glasgow to Phuket routes (during November 2013-March 2014).

The TAT London Office is looking to put more promotional emphasis on emerging resorts; such as, Krabi, Khao Lak and Ko Chang together with a number of the smaller islands. On their product inspection tour at the beginning of 2013, TUI UK highlighted Khao Lak as the resort, which had the best potential for growth with their charter programme.

Northern Thailand also remains a key focus for the UK market with Chiang Mai and/or Chiang Rai appearing in every Partner on Demand campaign run with UK and Ireland tour operators.

The Family Market remains TAT London’s major focus as an emerging market segment. TUI UK’s new non-stop, direct charter service from London Gatwick to Phuket is seen as a key factor in growing this segment, in particular, the introduction of all-inclusive packages by TUI’s First Choice brand into Thailand in both Khao Lak and Phuket. Other operators including Virgin Holidays and Turquoise Holidays have also run major family campaigns to Thailand for the first time in 2013.

The overarching theme of this year’s Thailand presence at the World Travel Market (WTM) is the Honeymoon Market, a key niche segment delivering higher yield customers supporting TAT London’s quality tourism approach. This market is particularly strong in the Irish market.

Two thirds of UK weddings are now followed by a honeymoon abroad while a third of those marrying abroad will take their honeymoon in a separate location. With the average age of newlyweds now over 30, many couples are already well travelled and are therefore seeking more than just a sun and sand holiday but want more adventurous experiences together.

The Luxury Market has performed much better in the last 12 months and will continue to be a key focus for TAT London in 2013/2014.

The over 50’s market shows great potential also with over a third of the population aged 50–89 years of age (approximately 23 million people). As an ageing population, this is a market that will continue to offer opportunities in the long term.

There is an increasing interest in special interest Thainess products; such as, Muay Thai, Thai Food and Cooking and Spa and Wellness. An example of how TAT London has been working with these markets was with UK tour operator, Trayvale which has been targeting Muay Thai clubs in the UK (40 major clubs) and using the Fairtex vouchers sent by head office in promotions in Muay Thai magazines and Muay Thai champion ships around the UK.

The TAT London Office has promoted Thailand as a gateway to the Mekong Region for many years and with the ever closer ties of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) will continue to promote multi-centre holidays in the AEC region. These multi-country packages are proving particularly extremely popular, especially in view of the emergence of Myanmar and the logical location of Bangkok as a transit hub.

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Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.