Thailand Minister Expanding New Segments is Essential

Manila (Philippines) – February 1, 2016 (travelindex) – During the conclusion of the ASEAN Travel Forum (ATF) 2016 in Manila recently, we spent a few minutes in conversation with Her Excellency Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Minister of Tourism and Sports, Thailand, on balancing source markets and the expected impact of the MRA-TP on Thailand.

Please elaborate on the 2020 vision for tourism in Thailand, particularly in relation to the position of ASEAN as a single destination.

The strategy for Thai Tourism (2015- 2017) will be a mechanism to drive the government’s policies on tourism and the National Tourism Development Plan (2012- 2016). The vision is to: “Lay the foundation for the development and promotion of Thai tourism to become quality tourist destinations in a sustainable and equilibrium manner.”

It is aimed to yield tangible results within two-three years with the focus on urgent activities. We have the direction to promote Thailand as a sustainable and quality leisure destination. This is also aligned with ASEAN tourism’s strategic objectives to be competitive and sustainable.

Thailand continues to support the promotion of ASEAN as a single destination through various campaigns such as cooperating with other ASEAN member states in launching joint marketing activities; promoting connectivity routes linking ASEAN countries; publishing promotional materials; and supporting ASEAN in utilising channels of the ASEAN Promotional Chapter for Tourism (APCT) in the Indian and Australian markets as well as the ASEAN-China Center, ASEAN-Japan Center and ASEAN-Korea Center to promote ASEAN in these respective markets.

Are there any major new tourism projects planned to be developed in Thailand in the next five years? What do you believe the benefits of those to be for Thailand?

According to the strategy for Thai Tourism (2015- 2017) the main concerns are in the development of tourism products and services, to facilitate travel for tourism, promote tourism safety, and to develop the logistics system for tourism.

The new development will be according to two types:

1. Area based : focus on 5+3 areas

1. Lanna civilization (Chiangmai/Chiangrai/Lamphun/Lampang/Phayao/Phrae Nan)
2. Isaan civilization (Nakhonratchasima/Buriram/Surin/Sisaket/Ubonratchathani)
3. Active Beach (Chonburi/Rayong/Chanthaburi/Trat)
4. Royal Paradise (Phetchaburi/Prachuapkhirikhan/Chumphon/Ranong)
5. Andaman (Phuket/Phang-nga/Krabi/Trang/Satun)
An additional three tourism development zones have been finalised:

1) The cultural world’s heritage tourism development zone (Sukhothai, Pitsanulok, and Tak);
2) Mekong tourism zone (Nongkhao, Nakhon Panom, Mukdaharn, Bungkan) and
3) Lower Chao Phraya tourism zone (Singburi, Angthong, Ayutthaya, Pathum Thani, Nontaburi.) The Ministry of Tourism and Sports will later submit this proposal to the cabinet for its approval.

2. Issue based
This will focus on the new travel patterns, destinations and expand existing markets, concentrating on Cruise and Yacht Destination; Ecotourism; Long Stay; Wedding and Honeymoon; HALAL and Food Products; MICE; Sports Tourism; Movie Destination and Health &Wellness.

This year’s figures prove that visitor arrivals are up (in Thailand) more due to the Asian market than the traditional European arrivals. What specific strategies do you have in mind to ensure this trend continues?

Currently, we have shifted our focus to target the increase of tourism receipts rather than the number of visitor arrivals. Adjusting marketing strategies to take advantage of growing Asian markets is vital. Thailand conducted a study to understand ASEAN travelers’ needs and behavior, especially high-valued tourists, to better serve ASEAN travellers and expand this market efficiently and sustainably. However, we do not overlook our friends from the European market, as one of our objectives is to balance source markets in order to reduce dependency on any specific market.

We continue to capture the new source markets by creating new alliance networks in countries with high growth potential and target quality leisure and high-value tourists, as we aim to promote Thailand’s tourism brand image as a ‘Preferred Destination’ and ‘Value for Experience’ by emphasising on delivering experiences such as Thainess, Thai culture, and nature conservation. Expanding new segments is also essential. Thailand has great potential in promoting high-end and niche markets such as luxury travel, health and wellness and weddings and honeymoons.

How will the AEC assist Thailand to increase the number of quality visitors? Are you able to put a forecast on what these expectations will be in numbers both in visitors and income?

Thailand is one of the ASEAN countries that has to keep up with the ASEAN and international standards in order to remain competitive. We are confident that with our variety of valued products and services, we will certainly have more opportunities to attract quality visitors.

Enhanced connectivity among ASEAN countries through air/land/sea modes and ASEAN open skies, including the development of an ASEAN common visa that will definitely facilitate travellers to visit ASEAN and of course, Thailand, as being either the starting point or the destination.

We have made some strategic moves to facilitate regional travel. Recently, Thailand announced the introduction of the new Multiple Entry Tourist Visa (METV) for foreign visitors to facilitate the forthcoming ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) integration and to boost Thailand’s tourism industry.

In the past we used to focus on the increase in number of tourists and the tourism receipts.
Year 2015 28.8m tourists / 2.2 trillion baht
Year 2016 2.3 trillion baht
Year 2017 2.5 trillion baht (75 billion US dollars)

Currently, we have shifted our focus to target on the increase of tourism receipts rather than the number of visitor arrivals. In 2017, we expect to make some 2.5 trillion baht (about 75 billion US dollars) in tourism earnings.

Will the ASEAN Mutual Recognition Agreement in Tourism Professionals (MRA-TP) help to ensure the distribution of wealth from tourism?

The Ministry of Tourism and Sports has signed a mutual agreement in recognition on ASEAN tourism professionals that has the primary purpose of facilitating the movement of professional personnel in tourism branches in ASEAN and to help develop the education of and train professional personnel in, the ASEAN member countries, in order to be standard accepted in the group of member countries. When the free ASEAN community is opened, the certified qualification and certified tourism professional standards personnel will have the right to travel to work in the ASEAN member countries but they must also follow the rules and regulations of the country. As ASEAN becomes single market and production based, there is a free flow of capital and skills. High-skilled tourism professionals can move from the lower wage countries to work in the higher wage countries. Low-skilled tourism professionals can also take advantage of this by working in the country that offers a higher wage.

What was your main theme of your message to the attendees at the recently concluded ATF in Manila?
Building an ASEAN socio-cultural community and ensuring the distribution of wealth from tourism.

For all media enquiries on the ASEAN Tourism marketing and communication working group, please email  atmcwg@gmail.com or the ASEAN Secretariat at eddy@asean.org